Hurricane Matthew turns Golden Isles hero into a hometown savior

  • Oct 11, 2016 1:15pm GMT

Deal's recent state of emergency announcement echoed in John's mind. He had lost the air show. John's mind also raced with a much more serious thought.

"Brunswick is John's home town and when someone goes home, there are times when you can’t just walk away," Little said after pausing from her work in the Brunswick Airport, listening to the sound of the winds howling through the walls. "There are family members, friends, and a community that needed help."

Brenda paused and looked over to his empty office, "Riding out the storm while returning to the roots of a well-honed military skill set was his second nature."

As the storm buzz-sawed the Atlantic Coastline closing in on the Peach State, John recognized the reality of a lost Golden Isles airshow combined with the challenges facing the community. Cowman immediately announced the cancellation of the inaugural event.

“We don’t want to be a part of the problem. We want to be a part of the solution," he announced on Wednesday. It was those words which changed the mindset of the room from being an entertainment event to one of rescue and survival.

As Brenda recalled a few days later, the entire room had breathed a sigh of relief. The entire airshow family all said afterwords that he made the right decision to cancel the two-day show.

As the hurricane brought flooding, storm damage, and hurricane force winds to the airport that Friday, performers and workers had enough time to revise plans. The Georgia lowlands sustained localized flooding, power was lost, and at the Brunswick airport, some 22 trees were toppled and a few hangers were damaged.

John's early cancellation allowed for police officials scheduled to work the air show to be reassigned to assist with relief efforts. He also turned the airport's hangers and work space into living and working quarters for the National Guard.

"He coordinated with all the life flights, the National Guard, and he will bedded down 200 troops into the airshow hangars," John's friend and Smoke-n-Thunder Jet Car pilot Bill Braack said on Saturday. "John's military airlift coordinator experience kicked in as numerous life flight and National Guard assets were positioned to aid in the hurricane effort."

Thus, a hometown hero quietly became a hometown savior overnight as he stayed behind to assist and use his own personal resources and team for the relief efforts. As he and a few other team members rode out the massive hurricane at the Brunswick Airport, John considered plans for rescheduling the Wings Over the Golden Isles later in March.

"Canceling in a timely fashion returned valuable resources to the community," Ms. Little added. "Emergency units for the city and county that were committed to the air show were relieved, and members of the county emergency planning officials thanked the air show organizers in an impromptu meeting for canceling as the decision offered options for additional resources for hurricane preparations. Hotel rooms allocated to performers became space for hurricane recovery teams. Emergency teams could shift focus to preparations and hangar space could be utilized for valuable planning and relief efforts."