A Florida resident named Pam Brekke spent hours upon hours, even days, dashing from store to store for supplies as she and her Orlando-based family prepared for Hurricane Irma ahead of this weekend.
Fox News and People magazine both carried the story — and this one will last far beyond the news cycle.
Why? This is real. This is about people. This is about neighbors helping neighbors, strangers helping strangers, human beings going out of their way for other human beings in a crisis.
Brekke, who works as an upholstery cutter, needed a generator. As store shelves grew increasingly empty, she kept searching. This purchase wasn’t just for comfort but for absolute necessity.
Her father-in-law, who is 87 and battling congestive heart failure, needs oxygen to get through the night — “and I’m worried about this storm,” Brekke told WFTV, an Orlando television channel, as tears came to her eyes.
On Thursday morning, Brekke drove some 30 miles to a Lowe’s that had received “a surprise shipment of 200 generators,” as Fox News reported. “She was next in line to purchase one when she saw the final unit given to the customer ahead of her. If there were one more generator, it would have been hers.”
At that point, Brekke broke down in tears. “I got there just a couple of steps too late,” she told People later.
She had been in Florida during the hurricanes in 2004, she said. So “I know what they’re like. During Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne, we were without power for seven days for each of those storms.” (Yes, all three of those storms — plus Ivan — hit Florida in one season.)
Then for Pam Brekke came an act of kindness none of us ever expect — but that can change lives.
A customer in line right in front of her, a man named Ramon Santiago, “approached [her] and insisted she take his generator — the last one in stock — without knowing why she was crying,” as Fox News noted.
At first she declined, telling him no — he needed it and deserved it. But he told her, “Ma’am, this is yours. You take this generator,” she told People of the exchange.
She then called the man her “angel.”
Pam Brekke and Ramon Santiago, complete strangers brought together by extreme circumstances, embraced as she thanked him profusely (they’re shown in the photo at the top of this article).
“Everything is OK,” Santiago said as he went back to his own business. And that was that.
But “that” is what made all the difference.
“I’m very overwhelmed by that man,” Brekke said, fighting back more tears, as Fox reported. “God will bless that man.”
The story doesn’t end there. When Lowe’s found out what had happened, it made sure the generous man received a generator in a subsequent shipment. It turns out a WFTV reporter was standing behind the two people on line and caught their entire exchange — and once this reporter posted it on Facebook, the story went viral. It’s all about people helping people and thinking of others.
“It is a heartfelt and deliberate act of compassion,” wrote one person on Facebook.
“That is class,” wrote another.
Said Fr. Michael Sliney, a Catholic priest in New York who also serves as chaplain of the Lumen Institute, an association of business and cultural leaders, “When Christ sees a problem, He looks for generous people through whom He can resolve it.”
(photo credit, homepage and article images: WESH, NBC NEWSCHANNEL)