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A Nearly Perfect Day

David Yon, May 18, rev May 24

What does Keith Rowe want now?  He shot me a link to an event page for Saturday, May 18 that was entitled “Run a 5k then Help a Disabled Vet Get Past Hurricane Michael.”  I thought, maybe if I ignore it, it will go away. Isn’t it good enough that we are driving to Blountstown (almost 50 miles) to run a 5K race? 
The Catfish Crawl 5K got its start in 2012. According to the best running source in at least a 100-mile radius, Herb Wills, the “race started and finished near the (Train) Depot on Main Street. The course was out and back on a paved rail trail, the Blountstown Greenway Trail, heading south almost to Blountstown's historic landing on the Apalachicola River before reversing direction to return to the Depot.”

Ben Hall, the Fire Chief for Blountstown, is the only director the race has ever had. That first year there were 96 finishers.  Saturday the race had 266 finishers, the most ever.  In a town of less than 2500 people that was ravaged by Hurricane Michael, that is a very impressive performance.  On October 10, 2018, Michael came ashore near Mexico Beach with category 5 winds that virtually removed Mexico Beach from the “map” and pounded Blountstown and the surrounding area with a fury not seen since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Ben Hall could have thrown in the towel given the destruction that twisted steel beams and ripped roofs off buildings, turned huge forest territories into broken matchsticks and devastated farmland and crops. Why spend money and time trying to save a 5K race? He knew something critical.  Running binds people together.  So instead of abandoning the race, he put more effort into it than ever. One again, it was a well-run event with electronic timing and a nice post-race setting.  Registration lines did get backed up for a short time.

One of the few race glitches occurred at the start when the race starter said something like: “To start the race, I will say ready, set ‘GO!’”  The loud “GO!” amplified by a microphone was all a group of runners on the front line heard and they took off.  They were quickly called back though and soon we were on their way.

The trail was clean of debris and many runners took off fast wanting to take advantage of a flat, fast, and scenic course. The humidity and early summer heat would melt some of the runners while others had good days.  Ann Centner broke the course record for women finishing in 18:08, taking down the record of 19:47 held by Kat Sack.  On the men’s side Charlie Kline became the 2019 Catfish Crawl 5k’s champion by running a time of 17:35.   Proceeds from the race go to fund a full scholarship for a deserving Blountstown High senior to attend the Chipola College Fire Academy. The 2019 race turned out be good enough to fund two scholarships.  The race was designated a Gulf Winds Grand Prix event which helped draw runners. A restaurant filled with hungry runners immediately following the race also provided positive economic impact.

While the trail was clear of debris, runners did not have to look far to their left or right to see the nastiness of Michael.  Giant trees left twisted, torn and snapped.  And it was much worse along the trail in the other direction.

In the meantime, my efforts to ignore Keith and hope he would go away were failing miserably. For one thing, Tammy Hornbaker would not let it go. Unlike many of us, Tammy has never stopped looking for ways to help the people of the panhandle.   After a number of false starts, she met Chris Curran and his family, four children and wife, Angel, through Mission850. She was ready to go to work, but needed a crew. Mr. Rowe stepped up to make it happen.
First he got the race director on board: “A group of runners from the Tallahassee area will be going to the Altha area (approximately 20 miles) after the race to assist a … veteran with storm cleanup. This is the kind of project we can get behind. If you'd like to go along, check out the details in the event page below. If you can't go … we will have a donation boot on the registration tables on race day! … It's good people doing great things.”

In fact, Chris has served three tours of duty in Qatar and Kuwait the last tour ending when he was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) and he was medically discharged. Contrary to the doctor’s orders, he was constantly helping us as the piles of debris slowly disappeared.

Tammy wanted to make another point. “People have asked me why those effected by the hurricane don't clean up their own yards, why are they still needing help. Here is a text from the military vet we helped yesterday.

"Hey, it's Chris. I would like to say thank you again and please tell everyone that came out ... Woke up today and was like ‘I have a lot to do.’ I got my coffee and went out back, and was still overjoyed of the yard... I am taking the day off the yard and going to the park with the family and kin...I'll send pictures of what I'll be doing on the back side of the house over time so y'all know that y'all made it possible for me to get back to my garden. That is my safe place that I go to when I am upset. God bless you all and thank you again.

Your brother/son"

Tammy finished up:

When you get up every single day and simply see what you still have to do, what is not getting done, it can be overwhelming ... When you have no money, no resources, no insurance, no FEMA help, and a family to care for, a little help goes a long way. As Keith Rowe shared today, "I give you a new commandment, love one another." John 13:34. Let us learn how to love one another, and not judge.

There has been a lot of bad, ugly news lately.  But Saturday, May 18, the largest finish ever in the Cat Fish Crawl 5K, was pretty much a Perfect Day for Keith’s Warriors (Mark and Karen Jeter, Thomas Biance, Sherri Johnson, Sarala Her, Mary Jean Yon, Sandy Pagano and, of course, Tammy Hornbaker) to battle against apathy.

Thanks, Keith for making us a part of it.