MILTON — Thousands of Facebook users now know Officer Tommy Burgs’ story of escaping Hurricane Irma and meeting a Milton man, David Cooper, whom he describes as “the angel in jeans and work boots.”
Burgs — a police officer in Pembroke Pines, near Fort Lauderdale — was driving his RV to Pensacola with his family to evacuate when a tire blew along the way. Sept. 8, he made it to Milton on the spare but knew he had to buy a replacement. The Firestone store made Burgs its top priority since he would be returning to help in recovery. Overhearing this, Cooper offered to buy four, not two, tires for Burgs.
Burgs wanted to thank the crew for its quick work on his vehicle so he went to get donuts from Milton Quality Bakery next door. After hearing his story, owner Frances Michener gave him donuts but wouldn’t take his money either.
The Pembroke Pines officer’s Milton experience left an impression on him, and his story went viral once he shared it online.
Sept. 20, Burgs returned to Pensacola to retrieve his RV and spent time in Milton. At the same Firestone, Burgs and Cooper shared what happened since their original encounter.
While he said there was an impact to his area in Pembroke Pines, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
“I was so fortunate,” he said. “The storm wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought it would be where it is. There still was an impact. I never lost power so I never had to use my generator.”
Until Wednesday, Cooper didn’t know the extent of his gesture’s impact.
“I was ready to give my two weeks’ notice,” Burgs said. “I didn’t want to be a cop anymore…I was afraid I didn’t care anymore and I was proved wrong right here.”
“I had no idea,” Cooper said. “I don’t think things happen by accident…God’s got a plan and this is part of it.”
Once Burgs was back home, he was eager to assist in the recovery efforts.
“In recovery efforts, I didn’t want to be sitting in my car patrolling,” he said. “I got to meet a lot of people. We had distribution centers where they are delivering food and water to our elderly and at-risk community. I was first in line. I wanted to put faces to the people I was handing ice and water to. That’s all because of all of this.”
Cooper didn’t want recognition but accepted it.
“If you’re anonymous, there is no angle,” he said. “There’s not an angle for me and there’s not an angle for the people you’re helping if nobody knows. I did get a lot of recognition but it was all good and everybody said I should have done it; I should have given the interviews and it was right and how it made them feel better about stuff.”
Cooper said he was in the post office and ran into two women, a mother and a daughter.
“The mother, maybe 70 … said, ‘No, I know you from somewhere.’ And I just smiled and I said, ‘Probably the TV, right?’ And she lit up and we stood there and talked and hugged each other and told each other we loved each other and just had a good conversation for five or 10 minutes.”
Cooper could relate to those down south after experiencing Hurricane Ivan.
“I was going through a rough time at that point and after that it got worse,” he said. “I just got down on my knees and asked God to help me and that was it. And I’ve been so blessed since then. I’ve got everything a man could ever want. I’m married to my best friend. I couldn’t ask for any more. If I died right now, it would be okay. I’ve got way more than I deserve.”
Burgs said he would put Milton at the top of his list when he thinks about retiring — and even received an offer to look at a piece of property.
“A lady that I haven’t met, she reached out to me on social media,” he said. “She’s older and has medical problems and has a piece of 4.25 acres or something and she wants me to come look at it so I’m definitely going to do that as well.”