Charlotteans worry about family in Philippines after typhoon

by: Mark Becker Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - In the crowded kitchen of the Tropical Sunrise restaurant, in Rock Hill, Veronica Mahaffy is busy stir-frying noodles and chicken for the end of the lunch rush and trying to keep her mind off the images from her hometown in the Philippines.

"I'm very worried. All of my relatives are in that province," she said, her voice falling off into little more than a whisper.

That province is Samar, the island that took a direct hit from Typhoon Haiyan, and her hometown is only about two hours by bus from the city of Tacloban, at the center of the disaster area.

She has yet to hear from her father and sisters, who are still living there.

"I don't know where I'm going to start. I don't know where I'm going to find them. I've tried to call home, but there's no way. ... I'm scared," she says.

Mahaffy's coworkers have admired the way she has responded despite the uncertainty, still not missing a shift in the kitchen.

"She's cooking back there in the kitchen with all this heart, not knowing what's happening," says Brenda Mobley as she give Mahaffy a hug.

It's a similar story for many Filipinos and their families -- as many as 400 -- in the Charlotte area. All they can do is watch the news and check the Internet for information as the damage assessments and death toll go up.

"There are areas they still can't get to," says Steve Mirman, who had married a Filipina and was president of the Filipino American Community of the Carolinas.

He said his wife's family is safe, but others aren't sure yet.

"Everyone takes care of family. They sure do. We spoke to family there yesterday evening and everything was fine then," Mirman says.

The Tropical Sunrise restaurant is holding a fundraiser for typhoon relief on Sunday -- one of many events planned in the Charlotte area over the coming weeks -- but there is an overriding feeling there that people wish they could do more.