Heroes emerge in storm-battered South
A sudden snow storm in Atlanta Tuesday left several children stranded on their school bus through a frigid overnight. VPC
A police officer helped deliver a baby, and strangers came to the aid of stranded motorists.
Tales of heroism and of the human spirit are emerging from the historic winter storm that has crippled Atlanta.
A police officer helping deliver a baby. A gas station owner feeding stranded motorists. Neighbors helping neighbors -- and strangers, too. Southern hospitality is shining in a city under siege.
In Sandy Springs, Officer Tim Sheffield is being hailed for aiding a couple stuck in traffic en route to a hospital, WXIA-TV reports. Police Capt. Steve Rose said the baby girl was safely delivered around 5:20 p.m. Tuesday amid gridlocked traffic on Interstate 285. Sheffield arrived minutes before the infant arrived.
"Fortunately he had his emergency lights on and people got out of his way," Rose said. "The delivery was pretty flawless."
EMS personnel arrived minutes after the birth and helped transport the new family to the hospital. After assisting with the birth, Sheffield continued to help those in need along the highway.
Police were saving the day all over the region. Officers in DeKalb County rescued seven students who spent seven hours on a school bus on snarled Interstate 285, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. County Police Chief Cedric Alexander himself helped rescue six students stuck at Peachtree Charter Middle School.
But it wasn't just police officers. Southern-style graciousness was everywhere, as strangers opened up their homes, volunteers served coffee and snacks to the traffic-bound, and school-bound principals played bingo and other games with stranded students to while away the time.
Eric McCurley, 45, was born and raised in Atlanta and has owned West Paces Ferry Shell gas station along with his brother for the past six years. McCurley's gas station has been providing people a warm, lighted place to wait out the storm – in addition to free coffee and a place to go the restroom.
"Keeping bathrooms open is probably the most important thing," he told USA TODAY. "When you sit in the car for six or seven hours, a bathroom becomes a very important place. And you look at a Slim Jim differently as well."
In Marietta, Arianna Jackson, 33, and her husband spent part of the night Tuesday handing out bottled water and muffins to stranded motorists at a busy four-lane route near their home.
They'd originally walked out to help a school bus full of children that was stuck in the snow and ice nearby, but other neighbors got their first. So the couple walked the few blocks to Highway 41, which she said was a parking lot going north.
She and her husband held up bottles and offered them to drivers. She said one diabetic motorist, who hadn't eaten in hours, was particularly thankful for the muffins and water.
"I felt lucky I got home but I know there were so many people who did not get home, so we wanted to do any little thing to help," she said.
Debbie Hartwig, a waitress at an Atlanta-area waffle house, said she managed to keep her cool thanks in part to the kindness of strangers after 10 hours on the road.
"I'm calm," she said. "That's all you can be. People are helping each other out, people are moving cars that have spun out or had become disabled. It's been really nice. I even saw people passing out hot coffee and granola bars."
At the non-denominational Action Church in Canton, Ga., church members kept the lights on for stranded motorists. Tommy Simmons, a church member, said the church parking lot filled up overnight with cars of stranded motorists.
"I've got 12 to 18 people right now. They're getting warmed up," Simmons said. His guests included a family that got stuck in the Atlanta area en route to Texas, several motorists, and two homeless men.
"Everyone is sitting around chitchatting like they've known each other for years," he said.
In Acworth, a suburb northwest of Atlanta, Barber Middle School Principal Lisa Williams said 972 pupils had made it home by late Tuesday but five still remained after their parents got stuck while trying to reach them.
"We are in the front office playing bingo and eating snacks," Williams said, adding that 40 school workers also had decided to stay put instead of risking a dangerous drive home.
At Centennial High School in Roswell, about 33 students slept in classrooms or on wrestling mats in the school's media center, the Journal-Constitution reported . "It's been almost a miraculous situation here," Principal Kibbey Crumbley told the paper. "We've seen an incredible human spirit."
Even some of the rich and famous needed a hand. And others of their ilk were there to help. When Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman posted on Twitter that he'd been stuck in traffic for more than five hours Tuesday, his former teammate, legendary third baseman "Chipper" Jones hopped onto his ATV and scooped up Freeman.
Tweeted Freeman: "Thank goodness for @RealCJ10 ! Saved me on a 4 wheeler!"
Contributing: Marisol Bello; Associated Press