Cherrystone Camper Lauds Emergency Response

July 29, 2014

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following letter was sent by the Riale family of Port Penn, Delaware, in appreciation for the service provided by local law enforcement, fire, and other first responders to the tornado at Cherrystone Campground.)

I am writing this letter in regard to the responses that were made in regard to the EF 1 tornado that struck Cherrystone Campground on the morning of July 24, 2014. My parents and my kids and I were camping there that morning when the tragic storm struck the grounds.

Just a little background on my family: my father has been in the fire service since 1964 and is a Past Fire Chief, and I have been in the service since 1994 and currently serve as my department’s Assistant Chief, and I am a Delaware State Police Dispatcher.

Once the storm started to lift that morning we made sure that my mother and kids were okay, and then my father, my son, and I started checking campsite to campsite for injured people. Within minutes we could hear the sirens of the responding units coming. We first were contacted by a Cape Charles police officer to join in the site checks. He informed us that the next streets over they were getting reports of worse things, so we ran over to that area.

While on the way a mother stated that her 11 year old was missing. Just a couple minutes later we found that girl walking down the street and the officer took her back to her parents. We continued onto the street worse hit and noticed campers removing a young boy from a tent site with a tree over it. We met up with a couple firemen from Cape Charles Fire Company that were assessing two more young girls who were lying next to their deceased parents.

The firemen acted quickly in making backboards out of the tops of picnic tables. My father and I assisted in loading and transporting the one young girl out to a waiting ambulance from the Exmore Fire Company. By the time we did that there were so many police units, ambulances, and fire units on the scene that me and my father’s attention went back to our own family.

In all of our experiences in the fire service I have never seen such organization of a disaster and the willingness to work together for the common good. The Cape Charles Officer, Cape Charles Fire, Virginia State Police, or the Northampton Sheriff’s Officers, never once said get away, we got this, etc. They all asked what we had, what we needed, and asked how they could help. We watched the command structure that was there that day organize site by site searches with no problems. For such a rural area compared to where I work and am from, the responses from these agencies were very fast, efficient, and bar none the very best I have ever seen in such a disaster.


It was no time at all that we were moved to the Northampton High School for shelter, where we were greeted by the Principal and his staff that he brought in to help. They offered us bathrooms, water, and places to rest and collect our thoughts. The Principal throughout the day I believe spoke to everyone that was there personally to see if he could help in any way.

In the hours that followed, my son jumped into helping unload and stage all the things being brought into the shelter. Just to name a few that I saw: the Salvation Army, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, a local coffee shop, two different local pizza shops, the Food Bank, the Eastville Fire Company, and so many local citizens bringing food from their houses. We even witnessed a very elderly woman come in with a walker stacked with food that she had made at her house to bring into the shelter.

Between my father and me, we have several years of emergency experience and we have never seen a community from start to finish come together in such professional and caring manor. My family would like to go on record by saying it was a job well done and believe that all the people involved that day from the first responders to the school officials, to the local businesses, to the community in general deserve to be commended and praised for their actions. One would think that this was rehearsed and practiced several times over because I didn’t see any flaws in the responses that day.

It was very hard for my family, spending a lifetime in emergency services, to be on the other side of things that day. My family couldn’t begin to tell how proud we were to be treated in such fashion considering the wake of the tragic events that day. It is something I will never forget and we truly hope that there is some way that the local, state, and possibly the federal officials take a hard look at your community and praise them for what they did that day. To us, it displayed true brotherhood, true sense of community and true caring for those in need. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you, and God bless all of you.

Port Penn, Delaware



7 Responses to “LETTER
Cherrystone Camper Lauds Emergency Response”

  1. Ginny Dorsch Nipper on July 29th, 2014 9:15 am

    This makes my heart proud to be from such a FANTASTIC community! God Bless the ESVA!

  2. Jean Hungiville on July 29th, 2014 9:31 am

    What a wonderful letter! This makes me so proud of our community. Congratulations to all of the first responders, esp. Cape Charles and Northampton County Sheriffs for a job well done!

  3. Julie Gibson on July 29th, 2014 9:41 am

    So heartwarming to read about the people of the Eastern Shore acting together as one strong and caring community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this terrible event.

  4. Patricia Lilliston on July 29th, 2014 3:52 pm

    Our first responders are second to none. It’s time for the Northampton County government to recognize and increase support for the local fire and emergency rescue squads who are the backbone of our emergency services. They pay for their own equipment and buildings and for EMT training for their volunteers. And those volunteers are our neighbors; they know us and do a great job for us and for our tourists. If the hospital moves up to Onley these independent rescue squads will be a critical part of our emergency team—when they have to carry us across the Bay to Virginia Beach, because from Eastville on down, that will be the closest emergency room.

  5. Diane Wilson on July 29th, 2014 5:49 pm

    What a beautiful letter. I agree that we are blessed to have such a professional, compassionate, and cohesive community. Kudos to everyone who had a part in helping the victims of the tornado.

  6. Carol Caton on July 29th, 2014 8:16 pm

    Many many thanks to all who assisted in the aftermath. The responders were second to none, especially considering this was not likely something they faced before.
    I also want to mention the generosity of the communities who took care of us in Eastville. Cherrystone is fortunate to be surrounded by such wonderful neighbors.
    I hope the campground has the opportunity to show their appreciation to those who assisted the Cherrystone family.
    On my next trip I plan on supporting the local merchants and communities that did so much for us. I’d like to see Cherrystone offer listings of local merchants as well.

    Thanks again to all! God bless you!

  7. Joan Callaway-Irwin on July 30th, 2014 9:53 am

    I have always loved living here and to hear such praise from someone like that just proves why I am so proud of the Eastern Shore – Thank you and hopefully an incident like last Thursday will not need to be repeated but if it does it does my heart good to know how we will respond. Thank you too for your families help.