JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — By now you’ve probably seen the viral picture of the Florida man buying 100 generators and other supplies for people in the Bahamas.
The picture was taken from behind, but he looked familiar to me.
I took a chance and reached out, and it turns out the Florida man is, more specifically, a Jacksonville man.
He asked if I would keep his identity a secret because he doesn’t want people to think he spent roughly $50,000 for notoriety. That request is being honored, but the story needed to be told.
“I’m just a farmer from Jacksonville,” he says.
The farmer tells me the section of the Abaco Islands that was hit the hardest “was the most beautiful place in the world to party, snorkel and fish.”
He says his family has been going down there for years creating new memories with each trip. For the last 13 years he’s kept going back to fish with a boat captain named Errol Thurston, and Thurston is one of the biggest reasons he’s been pouring so much money into the relief efforts.
“They found Errol’s aunt today, she had drowned. His uncle is missing,” the farmer tells me. “The death toll is going to really start ramping up.”
But he says we may never know how many people were killed by Dorian in the Bahamas because so many of the bodies have most likely been washed into the ocean.
Luckily, Thurston had taken a boat to Stuart, Florida to ride out the storm, and the Jacksonville farmer says he’s been in touch with him ever since Dorian started to hit the Bahamas.
He says they began making a list of supplies that would be needed right away. The sooner they could get them the better.
The farmer tells me he was gathering all the supplies at Costco this week when someone came up and asked why he was buying so many generators and other supplies. He told the man it was all for people in the Bahamas, and the man got choked up when he found out the goods were being donated.
The man snapped a photo, and the photo went viral.
Related: Family with ties to Bahamas: 'If she doesn't get out of that house she's not going to make it' | Action News Jax Convoy of Care for Hurricane Dorian victims in the Bahamas | Gallery: Hurricane Dorian impacts in Jacksonville area | Northeast Florida stepping up to help the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian
The farmer loaded up six tons of food, 100 generators, parts, oil, bars, chains, electric cords to get power from the generators and “enough chainsaws to start a tree service company” into trucks and drove them down to Stuart, Florida today.
They unloaded the two box trucks and the farmer’s pickup truck full of goods, and he says he thinks most of it will be going over on a flotilla of small boats this weekend.
He says he’s worked with the United Way for years, and the organization was tremendously helpful with this endeavor. But he says this isn’t a solution by any means, and hopefully a lot more money and assistance will be coming from the government before too long.
He says it’s hard to even think about how much Dorian changed the landscape in his favorite corner of the Bahamas.
“I’ve got a picture of an area where there used to be 30 or 40 houses where we used to rent one. I think one house is left that I can see in the picture,” the farmer says.
He says he hopes people will be inspired by what he’s done so far and will pitch in themselves to help the people in the Bahamas get back on their feet again.
The farmer says he’s like anyone else from Jacksonville who loves to fish, loves to travel and loves the Jaguars (he predicts a 10-6 record this season for his favorite NFL team).
But it pains him to see people in the Bahamas dealing with such a tragedy.
He says it could have been Jacksonville that was hit so hard, and everyone needs to realize we could have been the ones looking for help and trying to find loved ones swept into the ocean by massive waves.
So that’s what he was doing when someone snapped a picture and put it on the internet.
He says he’s just a farmer from Jacksonville who’s spent some of the best times of his life partying, snorkeling and fishing in a paradise that is no longer there.
Cox Media Group