PANAMA CITY, FLORIDA - Armed with a chain saw, Panama City resident Johnny Gonzalez was sawing through as many fallen trees as it takes to clear roadways and driveways.
Hurricane Michael left a path of destruction, downing trees and power lines. In the coastal town of Panama City, near where the hurricane made landfall, some residents were still trapped in their homes, surrounded by fallen trees.
Gonzalez knows the feeling of helplessness. He went to a church to seek shelter from the hurricane and thought it was safe, until the hurricane blew the roof off. He is just glad his children are safe.
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'By the grace of God'
“By the grace of God, we made it out of there somehow. I don’t know how we got lucky; they said we had tornadoes hit us. With the winds we couldn’t even tell. I remember hearing a whistling sound like a train was coming, and the roof was just sucked up from the church we were in,” Gonzalez said.
He made it home with his family, but the situation was not good. He called his boss, Lee Nettles, for help. Nettles, the manager of a beach resort community about 80 miles away, heard Gonzalez’s voicemail.
“We got a call from him. Just a voicemail. All we heard is that ‘we were trapped and we need water. Help!’ Amanda said, ‘I’m going to get him,’ and I said, ‘OK, I’m going with you.’ And we found him and his wife and his two kids,” Nettles said.
Nettles’ co-worker is Amanda Miles, director of security at the beach resort. Gonzalez is the assistant director.
“When I needed help they come and rescued me. They sacrificed their life for me and now I’m going to sacrifice mine for my town people,” Gonzalez said.
?Helping their community
The team of three decided to hit the road and offer help to others in the community who did not evacuate. In many parts of town, there is no power or water. Debris, destroyed buildings, downed trees and power lines were everywhere.
“I don’t care how strong you are, this is tough to witness. Total destruction,” Nettles said.
The team of three first started by going from street to street offering water, “and then on the way, Amanda said, ‘Let’s pick up a chain saw,’ so what the heck, I’ve never used a chain saw until today,” Nettles said.
Even with a clear path out of town, some residents decided to stay and wait for the electricity and water to return. It may be weeks if not months before things get back to normal again.