When William Wilson, age 23, and his friend Noah Harris, 18, first started out as Cajun Navy Foundation volunteers in Albany, Georgia, they knew they were in for an eye opening experience. Heading further south as members of USA Team Wewahitchka, they could see that the impact of Hurricane Michael would be long-lasting. By the time they made it to Panama City and Lynn Haven, the devastation was staggering. The team arrived in the small town of Wewahitchka, and they each knew instantly that it was precisely where they belonged.
“God put it in my heart that Wewahitchka is where I needed to be,” began William. “Those people lost everything they ever worked for. The experience has definitely taught us a lot. We used to be two young guys living reckless lives, with not a care in the world. Seeing what we have has taught us to never take anything for granted and never live like what you have can’t be taken away. Seeing these people go through what they have, and seeing the kids crying because they are hungry, is heart breaking. My grandfather always told me, ‘God gave you this one shot, and he can take it as fast as it’s given.’ “
For USA Team Wewahitchka, the last three weeks have been a whirlwind of cutting trees off houses, tarping roofs, checking on residents and handing out supplies. On one occasion, William and Noah were waiting at their rally point for other team members to return from delivering blankets. They suddenly heard squealing tires, followed by the impact of a car crash, about two blocks from the rally point. Without hesitation, yet anxious about what they might find, the two young men took off running to the site of the accident.
Since he arrived before EMS could get there, William ran straight for the car.
“I don’t think I’ve ever ran that fast, not even when I was in high school playing sports,” said William. “When I opened the door, she was already wrapped around my neck. The little girl was sitting in the front seat of the car, and she wasn’t buckled in. The airbags had deployed, and that’s what I was worried about. She was pretty shaken up about it, but thank goodness she was alright. She was tough that day.”
The four-year-old girl and her father, who arrived shortly after, were filled with gratitude. Since that day, William and Noah have thought of the little girl and wondered how she was doing. Then Halloween night, when they were handing out candy to the children in Wewahitchka, Billie Dase called William over. The girl’s mother and grandmother reached out to give William a hug. The girl and her dad were at the next booth over, so they were reunited with him, as well. The girl beamed with a smile as William approached. She remembered him from the day of the accident.
“The Wewahitchka community has treated us as family, just as we have them. Being with this team has been an honor. The things we’ve done, the smiles we’ve put on people’s faces, the handshakes we’ve gotten – it’s a rewarding feeling. This team, we’re dedicated. We aren’t going anywhere until the end, including the rebuild and everything,” said William.
Cajun Navy Foundation and USA Team Wewahitchka are in desperate need of more volunteers and more supplies. Harnesses, food, gas for generators, bars for chainsaws, diapers and pet food are just s few of the items needed in the area. To volunteer or donate supplies, visit CrowdRelief.net. Donations to USA Team Wewahitchka can be given by visiting the team’s GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/usa-team-rescue-amp-recovery.