PANAMA CITY, Fla. - Wearing the only clothes she was able to salvage and with her wedding dress in the back seat of her car, Panama City resident Brittany Cole shared her story of survival after Hurricane Michael via video chat on her phone.
"I would say it was honestly like the scariest moment of my life," Cole said. "I don't know how me and my family made it, but we did."
Cole -- along with her husband, Matt, and daughter, Charlotte, 3 -- said they felt like they had no choice but to ride out the storm.
"I didn't ride out the storm because I wanted to. My husband is a deputy. I work in the medical field. We couldn't leave," she said. "I thought we'd be fine. I thought we'd have a shingle missing this or that, and now we don't have a home."
She and her mom, grandmother and daughter took shelter in their bathroom as the windows began to shatter. Cole said her husband and stepfather were holding the doors shut against the 155 mph winds.
"I was calling my husband, like, 'Are you OK?' And he's, like, 'I'm OK. Stay in the bathroom,'" Cole said, with tears coming from her eyes.
After the storm had passed, she assessed the damage. The roof had collapsed, her home was flooded and everything in her daughter's room was destroyed.
"We don't have much left. All of our furniture is ruined," Cole said, crying. "My daughter's room, which is what hurts the most, caved in, and all of her stuff is gone."
It's the same story told by retired Panama City police Officer Jeff Becker. He spoke to News 6 from a rest stop in South Carolina. He is on his way back home from a hunting trip -- a home, he said, that is now gone.
"It was a category 2 at the time," Becker said, adding he wished he'd stayed. "You know, we have been through this before. Well, now I'm homeless."
He said he was on the phone with his son, who is in his 30s and was staying at his home, when the storm hit. While on the phone, Becker could hear the windows in his home shattering and began to cry as he thought about the fear his son had in his voice.
"He was so scared," Becker said. "He had to write his Social Security number on his arm because he thought he was going to die. Nobody wants to hear that."
However, Becker's son and wife are OK. His two other sons, who evacuated, are also safe.
For both Cole and Becker, though they have no homes, having their families is what's important tonight.
"We're alive," Cole said. "There was a moment this morning, we were all sitting together, and we were, like, 'We are all here, and that's what matters.'"
"All that other stuff, you can take it away," Becker said. "As long as my family is still together."
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