You may have seen him on television or the internet – standing next to Gov. Nikki Haley and other S.C. officials this week as they discuss Hurricane Matthew — his hands and arms moving in rapid, calculated motions.
Jason Hurdich, a nationally certified deaf interpreter, has been sharing with deaf S.C. residents what they need to know about the approaching storm and the state’s plans.
The Charleston-based counselor for the State Agency of Vocational Rehabilitation – who once interpreted for President Barack Obama – has created some buzz on Twitter from people watching Haley’s news conference.
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“Nikki Haley has the GREATEST SIGN LANGUAGE GUY EVER!” one tweeter wrote.
Another tweet said Hurdich upstaged Haley: “The sign language interpreter is the best part of Nikki Haley’s press conference,” and adding his facial expressions were hot – expressed by three flame emojis.
Hurdich is a newcomer to the Palmetto State.
The New York City native moved to Charleston only two months ago.
“I’m a newbie to the state. I love it. It’s a beautiful state. People are so friendly,” Hurdich, who was born deaf, told The State through interpreter Shonna Magee, with whom he works at Vocational Rehabilitation.
Hurdich said he did not expect to become part of the story this week, adding he is a humble guy who is happy just to help get information to the people who need it.
“My job is not about me,” he said. “It’s about the state and what they need and the governor needs. I’m just giving that information and interpreting it to the deaf citizens of South Carolina.”
In his everyday low-profile state gig, Hurdich counsels the deaf and hard of hearing.
Having worked with the deaf for more than 20 years, Hurdich said he finds the counseling rewarding.
He appreciates “really seeing deaf people succeed and know that they can do anything except hear,” he said.
Because Hurdich cannot hear what Haley and other state officials are saying about the state’s hurricane plans, Magee sits in front of him, listening to Haley and others speak, and then signing that information to Hurdich. He then reinterprets the information for a deaf audience.
“Interpreting work is not easy,” he said. “It’s hard work.”
But sometimes it also is exciting, like when he interpreted for Obama who was campaigning in Florida, he said.
“When you get to interpret for the president it’s an honor. It’s an honor because you’re also serving your country.”