By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff Writer | Published February 6, 2014
SMYRNA—Five stranded people found shelter overnight at the Chancery of the archdiocese Jan. 28, pulled into the warmth of the building by a staff member who had been out helping drivers on Cobb Parkway.
Daniel West, one of four archdiocesan employees unable to leave work in time as conditions deteriorated, said after listening to the sound of cars spinning out on the major county road for hours, he decided to see if he could help people out.
“All through the day the cars on Cobb Parkway were having trouble. There’re two big hills and you could hear them spinning their tires. … I decided to go out there and see what I could do to help,” West said.
Cars stretched bumper to bumper to the horizon in both directions when he went out around 7:30 p.m., he said.
He joined others trying to push cars up the hill one at a time, using cat litter someone brought from the Target store across the street for traction.
“We ran out of cat litter. I went and got more,” West said. “It took 10 to 15 minutes trying to get one car through. It was a tough, difficult situation, trying to encourage everyone, if we help (each other), we can get through this faster. It was as little as two and as many as six or eight people trying to push.”
They were able to move 15 to 20 cars blocking the road, he said, which let others trapped behind them get by and head for home. After midnight, archdiocesan staff members Michael Alexander and Gina Garcia came out to make sure West was safe “and rescue me,” he said.
“We noticed some people were hunkering down for the night” in their cars, he said, and he “went knocking on car windows and telling them there is a warm place (to stay overnight) if you want to join me.”
“Two ladies came with me,” he said, and then he found a family who had parked in the Chancery lot intending to sleep there and invited them in, too.
“They were so thankful,” West said, of the family of two siblings and their elderly father.
“They had just gotten done praying the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary. They said, ‘It’s a miracle,’” he said.
“We have a whole building here that was heated. I would appreciate it if someone did that for me,” said West, who is associate director of marriage, family and pastoral care in the Office of Formation and Discipleship.
The guests slept in the lobby area on benches and chairs the staff pulled together to form makeshift beds, West said. They cobbled together breakfast from items in break rooms like frozen meals and cans of soup.
Interviewed Jan. 29, West said he was grateful he could help a few people by staying at the Chancery.
“I had a sense to stay and now you understand why. … Maybe someone would have been hurt if I couldn’t help them here,” he said. “I am happy to go with God’s flow when I can. It’s not us. It’s God’s grace.”