Good Samaritans and ‘angels’ came out during the storm

Feb. 13, 2014 @ 02:39 PM

A winter storm, like any other disaster, brings out the best and worst in people. During Wednesday’s crawl through the snow, some drivers jockeyed for position, believing a few extra feet would land them home sooner. Countless other travelers, however, met Good Samaritans along the way, and many used the word “angel” to describe what they saw during the long trek home.

The Hampton Inn at Interstate 85 and Gregson Street ran out of rooms Wednesday, and soon the listserves from Duke Park and Trinity Park neighborhoods were alive with requests to house stranded travelers. Lots of people in nearby neighborhoods “were calling and extending rooms to their homes,” said Wendy Smith, general manger of Hampton Inn.
The hotel had many cancellations from visitors who could not make the trip to Durham, Smith said. Normally, she does not do waiting lists, but Wednesday afternoon she had four pages of travelers needing rooms, and ended up finding rooms for two of the pages, she said. She housed as many stranded travelers as she could: For those without a room, she found roll-out beds and sleeping bags, she said.
Bambi Riggsbee, who lives in Duke Park, and other neighbors were trying to help transport stranded people to Hampton Inn. “All of these people were in the lobby [of the hotel] at that point,” she said. Duke Park residents started contacting Trinity Park residents, who live closer to the hotel, to see if they could offer shelter, Riggsbee said. Others helped drivers push their cars out of tough spots and get on their way, she said.
Stephanie English described her five-hour ride home as a logic puzzle. English, a licensed clinical social worker, normally goes through RTP to get to her home in north Durham. She left before the snow began falling, but found she could not move through the park traffic. Instead, she went up Washington Street, and eventually made her way to Lavender Avenue, where travelers were having trouble making it up a hill. “I found myself stuck at the stop sign, and a lady came and pushed my car and a car behind me,” English said. That same woman was warning people to avoid the traffic tie-up on Duke Street, a major north-south route.
The woman gave her directions to get back on Club Boulevard, which led her to Roxboro Street and home. “So this lady really saved me. … Thank God for her,” English said.
A traveler on North Duke Street also witnessed selfless acts.  “I drove for 11 hours yesterday trying to reach my home. I saw accidents, pain, fear, and frustration in so many places on so many faces. But, I saw something else and I only saw it in Durham,” stated an email sent to The Herald-Sun from a writer who signed the message “The Stranger.” 
The message continued:  “I saw angels. I drove up to a stop sign and men and boys lounging at the intersection started approaching my vehicle and pushed my vehicle to get me started again. Before I even knew I was stuck angels were pushing my vehicle. I saw dozens of men and women pushing pulling and towing motorists up North Duke Street,” the person wrote. “All over Durham, in the middle of a really frustrating weather event there were angels walking out to help complete strangers. For me, one of the craziest weather events I ever witnessed in North Carolina will be overshadowed by the quality of the people in Durham.”