As Jamie Trent watched the news coming out of Ocracoke, North Carolina, on Sept. 6, his heart dropped.
The Forest resident and part-time songwriter had visited the southernmost barrier island in the Outer Banks many times over the years.
What he saw on TV looked nothing like the picturesque landscape he wrote about in his song “Destination Ocracoke.”
“It literally brought tears to my eyes,” Trent says, “because anyone whose stayed there, any picture you see, you know exactly what they’re talking about.”
A village surrounded by federally protected national seashore, Ocracoke is considered by many to be a hidden paradise because it is accessible only by ferry, private boat or plane.
According to The News & Observer in Raleigh, Hurricane Dorian "sent up to seven feet of water from the Pamlico Sound rushing" onto the coastal village, the highest water level rise since an unnamed hurricane in 1944.
“Two weeks after the storm, debris is piled head-high wherever you look,” says Bob Muller, spokesperson for the Outer Banks Community Foundation (OBCF), which is managing the official disaster relief fund for Ocracoke. “... There are cars parked everywhere with their hoods up waiting to be towed off the island.”
More than half the homes and businesses were flooded, the paper reported.
This is especially devastating for the small village, which relies almost entirely on tourism to support its economy, says Muller.
“Recovery will be long and slow,” he says, “and it will be a long time before the economy picks back up. Maybe in the spring.”
The entire village is shut down with only reconstruction being done, adds Muller, meaning the island is entirely at the mercy of donations.
Having volunteered since 2013 with SongwritingWith:Soldiers — a Nashville-based nonprofit that harnesses the healing potential of music by pairing active and retired military personnel with professional songwriters to craft songs about their service — Trent knew the power a song could have.
In response to the devastation, Trent decided to release “Destination Ocracoke” to raise money for disaster relief.
SongwritingWith:Soldiers “taught me more than anything to look for efforts and strive to do things that are bigger than yourself,” he says.
“Destination Ocracoke” wasn’t a new song. Trent started writing it while on a family trip to the island in 2017. After returning from his vacation, he collaborated with songwriter David Kent, who has penned hits for Blake Shelton and Rodney Atkins, to finish the track.
“He really captured the sense of Ocracoke in the song,” says Muller. “Ocraoke’s about the beach. It’s about being away from the hustle and bustle.”
Because of how personal the song felt, Trent says he never tried to sell it, and so the finished track sat collecting dust.
That changed two weeks ago when he released it on iTunes and Amazon, where it can be downloaded for 99 cents.
The track reached No. 3 on Amazon Music’s Best Sellers in Country following its release.
All of the proceeds Trent receives from the sales will go to OBCF’s Ocracoke Disaster Relief Fund.
While Trent says he won’t know how much money the song has brought for another couple of weeks, he hopes it makes thousands.
“Maybe amongst all that tragedy and devastation, they could hear the song and it would give them hope,” he says.
No matter what it raises, every cent will come in handy for helping the community of Ocracoke, says Muller.
“People are going to have to wait until next summer season to really start to get back on their feet,” he says. “That’s a very long time to have to wait. And it’s going to take a lot of assistance to keep folks on their feet.”