When help was needed, strangers gave it

This week’s snowstorm brought out the best in some Atlantans. There were survivors and there were heroes. Here are some of their stories:

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It took Delmar Wilson, 38, eight hours to drive 16 miles from his job in Forest Park to his home in unincorporated South Fulton.

“He passed so many people coming home. He saw a lot of stranded people on the road and it got to him. When he got home, he was really tired and his body made him go to sleep, but he was very restless,” said Wilson’s girlfriend, Nikki Cooper.

Wilson woke Cooper up at 2:30 a.m. and told him he was leaving. Armed with bottles of water, he walked to the front of their subdivision on Cascade Palmetto Highway.

“He went outside to look and see if people were on Cascade Palmetto,” Cooper said.

Wilson found a family of three huddled in their car, freezing.

“He invited a family back to the house and offered them the warmth and shelter of our home. Then he got up (that) morning and made them a breakfast of eggs, sausage, bacon and coffee,” said Cooper, adding that when the sun came up, the family realized they were only four miles from home.

“So they suited up and walked home. He gave them shoes and fresh socks and saw them on their way,” Cooper said. “That is who he is. Was I concerned about inviting people home? Sure. But he makes good decisions and I trust him.”

When a reporter asked to talk to him, Cooper said he wasn’t available.

“He went back out to help more people,” she said.

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Around midnight Tuesday, Erich Claxton, his girlfriend Tara Montoya, and their friend Brian Edwards ventured out of their Sandy Springs neighborhood with a vat of hot chocolate, bottles of water and breakfast bars to the surrounding roads to see who needed help.

“We didn’t get very far when we noticed a lady sliding around outside of her car on the hill on the backside of Perimeter Summit Parkway,” Claxton said. “When we finally got up to her car to see if she needed help she let us know she had her friend with her who was four months pregnant and they had gotten stuck coming from the hospital.”

The woman, said Claxton, had been in the hospital with a blood clot and had left against the orders of a nurse, because they thought they could make it through the two inches of snow to their home just a mile from the hospital.

The trio tied snow cleats to the pregnant woman’s feet and literally held her up as they walked her up the hill and to her home.

“Both ladies were extremely thankful and had said if we hadn’t come by to help they may have had to just wait in the car until someone came by,” Claxton said. “That road around midnight has very few travelers and we saw a truck pass by them without stopping. I’m not sure how long they would have been out there.”

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Claudia Hall considers herself one of the lucky ones. She beat the snowstorm — even if it did take her nearly nine hours.

The Senoia resident endured her metro Atlanta commute, which turned into an odyssey, Tuesday, thanks to the kindness of strangers, a pair of borrowed sneakers and socks and a friend’s guest bedroom.

Hall, director of market and business development for Southern Regional Hospital, was attending the Georgia Hospital Association conference in Dunwoody Tuesday when her departure plans collided with the storm.

The conference ended early at 1:45 p.m., with the intention of giving people a head start against the storm.

But Hall and other conference-goers spent three hours trapped in the parking deck off of Ashford Dunwoody Road.

“The gridlock on the street wouldn’t allow us to come out,” Hall said.

She tried to get to St. Joseph’s hospital but ditched that idea. From there, she spent another three harrowing hours in her SUV as it fishtailed along I-285.

“I was very scared I was going to be stranded on the interstate,” she recalled. Around that time, she abandoned the idea of getting home to Senoia and headed for a friend’s home in Buckhead, taking surface streets at 20 mph.

By the time she got to Northside Drive, she was three-tenths of a miles from her friend’s home but it might as well have been Australia.

“There were two 18-wheelers stuck on Northside and some kinda transit bus. When I saw the (stranded) police (car) lights up on the hill, I said ‘My car’s never going to make it up there and I said, ‘You need to just give it up and walk the rest of the way’.”

She parked on a side street and was greeted by Jamie and Kent Pryor, who invited her and other snow-weary travelers into their home for soup.

She declined the soup but took them up on another offer.

“I was wearing a business suit, high heels and panty hose. So they gave me some tennis shoes and a pair of socks and I walked the rest of the way to my friend’s house.”

At 10:13 p.m. — nearly nine hours after her meeting ended — Hall arrived at Deanne Rose’s home, just 15 miles from where she’d started her snow-filled odyssey.

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After slogging six hours home from downtown Atlanta Tuesday, banker Jamie Pryor opened his Buckhead home to other snowy-weary travelers, including a Michigan couple celebrating their 47th anniversary. Pryor and his wife, Kent, helped the couple mark their wedding anniversary with a roaring fire in the hearth, tea, soup and mint chocolate chip ice cream.

“We just kept adding water to the soup,” Jamie Pryor said.

While hosting four other strangers, the Pryors also kept tabs on their 17-old-daughter Ellie as she tried to make her way home from school at Woodward Academy. After a failed attempt to get home on MARTA, she found herself stranded and wound up spending the night with friends, before making it home the next day.