Sumter County - When Tropical Depression Alberto stalled over Sumter County 10 years ago, nearly two feet of rain fell in just 24 hours. That caused deadly flash flooding that swept cars off roads. 15 people were killed in Sumter County.
"I felt like my heart had been ripped out," said Carolyn Hawkins. July 6th, 1994 is a day that Carolyn Hawkins will never forget but sometimes wishes she could. "It was raining very hard." Despite the heavy rainy, it was still a normal morning for Carolyn, her husband and two sons. 16 year-old Kedrick had basketball practice, husband Freddy had to go to work, and 8 year-old Kourtney was going to stay with his grandmother.
"They left out of the yard. I went back to bed, and then the phone rang. It was my son's coach saying they didn't have practice today because water was in the gym." Carolyn called her mother to tell Kedrick not to go to practice, but the boys and Freddy hadn't arrived yet. "I started to get really worried because it was almost seven o'clock and that's when my husband was supposed to be at work."
Carolyn decided to go look for them. "I got in the car and went down the road towards Americus, but they had put up a barricade across the road. I figured they had made it across and maybe the truck had broke down or something."
She went home and waited, growing more concerned by the hour as the water kept rising. "Every time I heard a truck I was hoping it was his truck." Then, came horrifying news. "Then they came in a said they found my husband and then said they had found his body. That's when I knew he was dead."
Freddy Hawkins had turned the truck around at the road barricade that morning and decided to take another route. Hawkins tried to cross Brown Mill Pond Bridge less than a mile away from the house. The weight of the semi truck ahead of him collapsed the already weak bridge, and Hawkin's truck rushed down the swollen creek.
"I fell out. I don't remember anything after the I found out my husband was dead, until I woke in the emergency room." The news sent Carolyn into shock. When she came to, there's was more and more bad news. "They came back that morning and said they had found my baby." But, Kedrick was still missing. "He could swim. I was stilling holding on thinking maybe he got somewhere and got to safety or maybe he's in a tree somewhere." 3 days later, Kedrick's body was also found.
"There's still a lot I don't remember. I was a zombie on medication. I didn't want to remember nothing because I just felt like it was all a dream." A nightmare that other families were living, too.
Jon Hurley Jr., his wife Kathy, and 2 year-old son Jon Alton, III were also driving that rainy day when their car was hit by flood waters. Jon Jr., the only one who could swim, clung to a gas station pump barely sticking out of the water, but his family was swept away. He was rescued the next morning.
Jon and Carolyn - two strangers - now shared a horrific loss. "A man from FEMA called and said John Hurley, a man who lost his family too, was trying to start a support group," said Carolyn. The two met with others who lost families members. The group would talk about their grief and try to heal. "We had so much in common because he had lost also."
The incredible loss they shared bound Carolyn and John. After two years of friendship, the two realized they loved each others. Now ten years later, the proof of their love is evident. Their son, 7-year old Jonathan, brought life back to their hearts.
"He has their names. John's little boy was John Alton, and my son's were Kedrick and Kourtney. We named him Jonathan Alkourdrick so he could have some of all his brothers' names." Names from brothers he will never meet, from families he never knew that through an agonizing twist of fate came together and created life from death.