Ocracoke Islanders want visitors as badly as non-resident property owners want to come back. Photo: C. Leinbach

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By Mike Lydick

I’m a member of an Ocracoke Non-Resident Property Owner (NRPO) Facebook page that was created just after Dorian to help organize information and connect owners to each other as we migrated back to the island and homes we loved with our mops, fans and tools.

The discussions were civil until the arrival of what I call “the second flood,” COVID-19. Only this time, the re-entry tag hanging from my mirror is useless.

Most of the NRPO’s understood why. But a select few began behaving like the kids with golden tickets in the Willie Wonka movie. Entitled. Selfish. Angry.

I tried explaining to them some things that I thought were obvious to everyone.

Our second homes sit a few feet above the ocean. If I need to dig a post hole, it requires a shovel and a snorkel.

I reminded them that residents’ homes were generational. That the majority of these sat a few feet above the exposed earth when the sewage-laden water levels rose. That the majority of our homes sat 10 to 15 feet above the tumultuous tide.
Remembered that we came back in cars, from a second home that was OK. Drove back to those OK homes in our OK cars. Reminded them that locals lost their homes and their cars (and their bikes).

I recalled how Teresa Adams helped NRPO’s get re-entry passes; connecting anyone who needed help to help. She didn’t treat any of us any differently in her office up above the piles of buckets and canned food.
But you understood, though, driving in your “go” car that you brought from your OK house that it was different for the people you passed on the way out from the firehouse.
It was different for Sandy of Cool Creek Electric. He didn’t have customers. He had friends and neighbors with no power. Many like us with pulled meters in those early days. If your eyes were open, you saw that Sandy (who is also an EMT) was mad tired. Still is.
Same for Chuck or Cathy from Chuck’s ACR. If you ask Chuck how many AC units he’s replaced, he’ll tell you he’s not sure within a plus-or-minus 20 guess. As of this article, they’ve still got 40 to 60 units to go.  Cathy would like to go on vacation when it’s all over, but definitely doesn’t want a cruise.  They’re tired like Sandy is tired. Like everyone is tired. NR’s and PO’s both helped equally, in due time.

I explained to these very loud posters that there were about 20 beds in the Outer Banks Hospital. No ICU to speak of. That there were quite a few Ocracoke residents in the 65-plus age at risk age group. People were scared, and rightly so.
These people would like for us to stay home.
These people, who want our houses fixed, open and filled with happy money-spending renters more than we do. They are more scared than we are about the empty ferries and businesses.
Let’s not go there until we’re told we can, I said.
That if they thought the way to get what they wanted was to be vocal about their non-resident rights–to stand out like some human flare of entitled self-righteousness–then they didn’t understand something obvious.

That this place we’ve staked our markers in–it’s the home of people born of pilots and privateers and fisherman. Descendants of the Life Saving Service and pirates and quiet people who’ve rarely if ever gotten help from the mainland. Their homes are built from broken ships. They have pizers and go on scuds. They would like us to stay home for now.

I explained that maybe these loud Facebook posters should be quiet. Follow our lead. Pay down their principal. Learn what we can and listen when we can. Slow down our expectations and increase our participation. Ease into a community that no longer exists in most parts of the world. And someday, hopefully, earn a seat at the table when our hair is grayer, and we drop our respective NR’s.

Michael Lydick

New Ocracoke property owner and Ocracoke Observer contributor, Michael Lydick and his family, live mostly in Winston-Salem.

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  1. Thanks everyone.

    Shortly after the article was released, the FB page administrator was messaged by a group of people who convinced her that I had violated the group’s privacy policy.

    I lost an island friend, too. That one stung.

    There’s definitely a heightened level of angst right now across all the demographics. People are scared about their lives, their homes, their finances. It’s palpable. With the storm, you could “fix” things. With the virus, your only option is waiting, so there’s a loss of control (which is hard for me). You do what you can in the waiting time. Write. Plant. Sing. I think islanders have a historical advantage when it comes to waiting time.

    I appreciate you all – and miss you tremendously. Please stay safe, and be well.

  2. I “discovered” Ocracoke in early September of 1986. It was a much more authentic place in those days, I came in on the Swans Quarter ferry just to check it out.The ferry was noted on a road map and my girlfriend and I were just roaming about and vacationing after her stint was over at Operyland USA and we had a few weeks before returning to college. I have been back nearly every year, sometimes more than twice! Nothing better, if you like a beautiful and undeveloped pristine beach. Can’t wait to return. Trying to be patient in Columbus…

  3. Works both ways I reckon; some folks locked out of the Island, some locked in. For those of you on the sandbar who haven’t traveled inland lately, here’s just one thing among many you’ve been missing. An account from my hometown, a smallish community nestled inside the elbow of one of the oldest rivers in the world, settled about the same year as Ocracoke. Yesterday, driving down our nearly deserted Stay At Home Main Street, I saw a sign planted in front of a pharmacy announcing the availability of “Hide & Seek Eggs.” My first thought? That’s just about enough to make Billy Graham put his fist through a stained glass window. I should’ve stopped right then and there to ask whether the store would be open for business on OK-Friday. Friends, if y’all don’t let me back on the Island soon…I just ain’t woke enough for this stuff. I sure miss seagull chatter; makes more sense to me.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for understanding the OBX and most especially Ocracoke in these difficult times. We all want to be safe! We all want normalcy again! Staying home is all we’ve got right now, Do it, so we can get through this and get back to our beautiful world!

  5. Well stated. As a Hatteras NRPO, I’d love to be down there riding this out. But, the chances are too steep with older residents. Why take a chance and possibly hurt them!

  6. There were no deaths from Dorian. Covid 19 affects people not property. By keeping Ocracoke isolated during this “2nd flood” hopefully the same positive results will occur. As has been said during the Dorian recovery efforts, property can be replaced. People can’t. Thank you, Michael, for having the people of Ocracoke foremost in your thoughts and actions.

  7. NRPO’s are still Dingbatters. I’m a proud Damn NRPO Dingbatter and know it. I also have “a place at the table” at Ocracoke. The people there took my family in and made us a part of theirs. When tragedy struck, they were first responders and have been there for me in my most challenging moments. I agree with everything you wrote. I got my permit, yet decided the right thing to do was stay put for now…call my friends on Ocracoke and see what they needed and get it to them. God bless my Ocracoke family. I hope to see them very soon. And…”There ain’t no train to Ocracoke.” -Dune Dog Dingbatter

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