Elaine Bussjaeger, Mimi Teller, and Stephanie Wagner, three of more than a dozen public affairs staff on the ground in Florida, found themselves on a unique mission while shadowing a Disaster Assessment team in Mexico Beach on Tuesday.
As the team walked the streets of Mexico Beach, trying to assess the damage and, in many cases, determine which house belonged on which lot, they came across a man named RT Pugh who was covered in sweat and dirt. RT lived on 15th street and along with his neighbor and her 96 year old mother, chose to ride out the storm rather than evacuate. “It was me and my neighbor behind me, her 96 year old mother and my two dogs,” RT explained. RT realized at the height of the storm that the decision they had made to stay may not have been the correct one. “I kept having to go between the two houses and then had to rescue her mama when she got trapped in her bathroom and the water was up to here,” he said, as he motioned to his throat. He explained that he was in charge of watching the houses near his as the owners hadn’t returned. Having not yet made a dent on his own cleanup, he took it upon himself to call in some support - an army of fellow veterans. “I got brothers coming. We’re going to have campers all over this place to start cleaning up.”
When the three women inquired as to what help he may need before reinforcements arrived, RT explained that all he really needed was some ice, and he’d needed it for quite some time. The women were more than happy to oblige and venture out to provide RT with some ice. After coming up empty handed at City Hall but getting a lead on some ice in Port St Joe, the three made one more inquiry to some firefighters who were staging and eating lunch on the side of the road. The firefighters explained that there was ice and anything else the man could need at the end of 15th street at the POD, or point of distribution.
Upon arriving to the POD, and excitedly explaining to the gentleman managing the 18-wheeler what they needed the ice for, he was more than willing to give them “whatever they needed.” With three bags of ice in tow, the trio returned to RT’s home. The smile on his face when the ladies yelled out the car window that they had found him some ice, extended from ear to ear.