WHITEVILLE, NC (WECT) - While most people aren’t thanking Hurricane Florence for much of anything, two men are crediting their friendship to the storm.
John Guthrie stumbled upon Diego Perez and his wife bringing supplies to people after the storm. Guthrie asked to help, and the two hopped in kayaks and paddled down White Marsh Road.
Six months after the storm, the two said they speak regularly, and consider each other good friends. A few hundred miles separate the two with Perez living in Georgia and Guthrie in Whiteville.
They said they bonded right off the bat, and an hour and a half kayak ride fighting off water snakes brought them even closer.
“We saw a bunch of water snakes, fire ants, all kinds of stuff like that," Guthrie said. “We were pretty focused on the task at hand, and then in the moments when we’re a little more comfortable, we were just talking and getting to know each other.
“It was punctuated by us getting too wrapped up in the conversation and drifting somewhere we didn’t need to drift, and we both almost capsized, twice I think."
They credit Florence but said it’s not something they would ever want anyone to go through.
“I wouldn’t ask for it again, as much as I love the guy," Guthrie said. “I would rather people didn’t have their houses destroyed, their lives upended and of course some fatalities also, but of course that’s not how those equations work.
“There definitely is positive that comes out of these things, and this is one of those things.”
Both think their meeting wasn’t by chance.
“He just jumped out and was willing to jump in, and I didn’t question it a second,” Perez said. "He and I asked each other our names as we were loading up supplies and gearing up to go out and paddle. He was a godsend. He really was.”
Perez has volunteered after other hurricanes but has never stayed in touch with those he served until Florence. He credited his wife’s outgoing personality for making friends in Whiteville.
“I tell people more about the people I met than the close calls or some of the stuff I saw that necessarily isn’t what you want to see," Perez said of his discussions about the hurricane.
Guthrie invited Perez and his wife over to do laundry and for dinner in the days after the storm. Perez and his wife helped several others during their time in Columbus County, and were named exceptional citizens by the City of Whiteville.
Both men said it helps talking to someone who has similar experiences of going through such a devastating storm.
”I have friends that I can talk to about (the storm) and a support group, and even if we don’t talk specifically about Florence, the things we talk about, it’s a sense of normalcy," Perez said. “It’s almost like we don’t have to talk about how bad things were. We can just remember the positive and carry on with our friendship.”
These days, Guthrie and Perez are trying to raise money for a boat for the Whiteville Fire Department.