I’m usually quite pessimistic about America and Americans because of how we treat each other. In my opinion, there is much less respect for our fellow citizens now than there was in the past. I don’t know what’s the root cause, but that’s just something I sense. I’m not saying that we don’t all get along anymore, but it’s almost that we get along because we have to and not because we want to.
The following story appeared on the website AL.com, and it’s about a family that was stranded in my hometown, Gadsden, Alabama. I have some fond memories of growing up there, and now I reside less than 200 miles from home. I tip my hat and give kudos to everyone involved in this story as it reminds me of when we seemed to get along because we wanted to.
By William Thornton | firstname.lastname@example.org on December 26, 2013 at 2:39 PM, updated December 26, 2013 at 3:12 PM
GADSDEN, Alabama — When Billy Kemp first spotted the five figures standing on the roadside Tuesday morning, he didn’t know what to think.
Kemp was filling his car up at a gas station when he saw a couple with three children standing on Rainbow Drive in freezing temperatures. He thought to himself he would stop to ask if they needed help – that is, if they were still there when he got back into his car.
By the time he made it across the highway, his friend Jane Skipper was already there talking to the family. And so began a holiday project that soon swelled beyond the two friends to a community.
The family were Timothy Jordan and Jennifer Gill, and the three children were Cheyenne Fouraker, 11, Lance Fouraker, 10, and David Fouraker, 9. They were trying to get to a small town near Waycross, Ga., and had started out from South Pittsburg, Tenn.
Tim told the two he had lost his job in construction, and they were trying to get to Jennifer’s family in Georgia, Skipper said. They said they had been staying with another family until that family’s home had been foreclosed.
“They didn’t have coats, or luggage, and I don’t even think the woman was carrying a purse,” Skipper said. “They had come to Gadsden to try to find a cousin, but that person wasn’t in the phone book.”
Skipper and Kemp took the family to a Motel 6 and got them a room for the night. They then began looking for a local charitable organization which might take the family in. However, it was Christmas Eve and the usual resources were either closed or full.
By this time, though, news of the family had spread to local law enforcement. Finding out from the city’s emergency dispatch, members of Gadsden’s Fire Station No. 1 took the children on as a project.
David Putman, president of the Gadsden Firefighters Local 454, said the firefighters on duty began looking through the station for any toys left over from the seasonal toy drive. Then others went to Wal-Mart looking for gifts.
“When we heard about it, there was a bull rush to take care of them,” Putman said.
Meanwhile, Skipper and Kemp went to the local bus station and purchased tickets for the family. They were able to get transportation for the family to Valdosta, Ga., while Skipper contacted a friend who could drive them to their family’s home near Waycross. The bus left Christmas Day afternoon. Skipper and Kemp didn’t know about the help that others were gathering.
“It was like throwing a stone into a lake,” Skipper said.
One family brought a home-cooked meal, while another took the family out to eat. Others supplied new clothes, coats, backpacks and toys, Skipper said.
“When I went to see them, the youngest boy held his hands up and said, ‘This world is just about perfect.'”
Kemp said the circumstances of the family needing help on Christmas was one reason so many people acted.
“It really put in perspective what Christmas is all about,” he said. “It made me realize how much we all have to be thankful for.”
Looking at Google Maps, it’s almost 90 miles from South Pittsburg, Tennessee to Gadsden using the major highways. Over the interstate, it’s around 360 miles from Gadsden to Waycross. That’s an awful long way to try to travel with kids and hitchhiking your way across the South. All that is made worse by knowing they were traveling without coats in December. Thank you, fine citizens of Gadsden. You make this man here proud to say I was born and raised there.
- Walking the Walk: How Vo-Tech Ed Saved a Town (bionola.wordpress.com)
- Pour Decisions: Kudzu Porter (thefinewiner.wordpress.com)