Rescuers, and a very fortunate family, gathered for an emotional reunion Friday afternoon in Lester Jack Park in Wills Point, Texas one week after their lives became forever intertwined by tornados. An overturned pickup truck brought a group of strangers who refused to let the family inside, die.
Phillip and Emily Ocheltree invited their rescuers, including Good Samaritans, firefighters, and EMT’s to the park to thank them for what they did last Saturday night. In a rescue captured on cell phone video and now seen by millions around the world, complete strangers rushed into a flooded stream to help pull the Ocheltrees and their two young children from their overturned pickup truck. The children, 18-month old Addison and 4-month old Marshall were both revived after the rescue by CPR.
At the picnic, the first person Addy hugged, and then for several minutes would not let go of, was Virginia Dixon Howard, the “prayer warrior” who can be heard on the video repeatedly offering prayers for the children to breathe.
She came to the reunion still holding the pants that paramedics cut off of Addy before they rushed her to the hospital.
“And I said I was gonna hold onto them because they meant a lot. And I prayed on them until that baby woke up. And she’s safe. She’s safe.”
The other members of the reunited rescue team included Tom Mitchell, the man who recorded the rescue on his phone, Jaime Martinez, Trey Lively, John Warner, Tom Mitchell, Kory Prox, and Dustin Neely – the man in the red shirt who carried little Marshall from the truck.
“I just jumped in just doing what I thought was right to help,” Neely said.
“I don’t know how the hell y’all did it man,” Phillip Ocheltree said to Trey Lively.
“I don’t either,” Lively said. “I grabbed a tool out of my truck and started beating on the windows and three minutes later a door unlocked.”
Many of the rescuers, with their first chance to see the children since the rescue, came to the picnic bearing gifts of toys and clothing for them. But their parents would agree that the rescuers, paramedics, and doctors already gave them everything they need.
“It’s a debt that will never be repaid, no words for it,” said Phillip Ocheltree. “It’s difficult and emotional to see everyone again that helped us that day. But it’s a blessing to be here to see everybody.”
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