Looking back on Matthew: Widow stresses importance of evacuating - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Looking back on Matthew: Widow stresses importance of evacuating

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

It's hard to believe it has already been one year since Hurricane Matthew hit the Coastal Empire. Whether you lost power or you lost your entire home, everyone along the coast was impacted in some way. 

The storm changed lives forever. For many of us, life eventually returned to normal, whether that was getting a new roof, rebuilding a portion of your home, or maybe just waiting for the power to come back on. 

For JC Davis and her two children, it was all of those things on top of grieving the loss of their father and husband, Jefferson Davis, who was killed when a tree fell on top of their Isle of Hope home. When JC Davis evacuated with her two children last year, her husband decided to stay behind. Little did she know, he was literally making a life or death decision. For this family, life after the storm means finding a new normal and a new purpose - and for JC - that purpose is sharing her story in hopes of saving lives. 

"My husband and I got into a big argument about staying or going, and I said, 'we need to go," JC said. 

As Matthew approached the Coastal Empire, many residents heeded the recommendation from officials to evacuate, including JC and her kids, but her husband was among those who decided to stay. 

"He was a former ranger and he was like, 'I've been in two helicopter crashes, I've been to war; a storm is not going to kill me.' One of my neighbors called me just in tears and he couldn't even talk to me. He handed the phone to my other neighbor. They were like, 'Jeff is inside. There's a tree on your house.' I said, 'is he alive or dead,' and they said, 'we don't know, we can't get to him.' I just collapsed on the floor," she said. 

There was so much damage done to the home that they weren't able to safely remove his body until almost 18 hours later, and if grieving the death of a loved one wasn't enough, the now single mother of two young children was faced with rebuilding their home. Little did they know, they would be evacuating that home once again, less than a year later, before Hurricane Irma. Days before the storm, Davis took to Facebook sharing very personal and graphic details about what happened to her husband, warning those who refused to leave. It's a message and story that she will continue to share every hurricane season because she knows evacuating is literally a decision between life and death. 

"Oh, I just want to shake them. I think they are stupid. I think they are selfish, and I tell them, you know, 'I hope you have a will."

JC's story is a prime example of the risk that you take if you decide to stay during an evacuation. 

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