Phoenix family survived Irma thanks to kindness of strangers

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

A Phoenix family stuck in the Virgin Islands when Hurricane Irma hit is very thankful for the kindness of strangers.

Lori Bonnell and her son Dustin Vesey had been hired to house-sit a home in St. John for the summer. But as Irma approached, it became apparent the pair might not be safe in the wooden home.

Desperate to find more reliable shelter, they posted an SOS on Facebook. David Thomeczek and his wife Julie answered the post, inviting the family to stay in their home reinforced with concrete.

Even though they had access to a bunker, the two say they felt “sheer panic.”

“Specks of dirt and dust were falling on us,” says Bonnell. The family left the bunker thinking the ceiling would collapse.

They moved to a laundry room where they struggled to keep the door closed to protect them from flying debris.

“We couldn’t see anything other than palm trees flying by,” says Bonnell. “All three of us, my husband, Dustin and I, up against the door with all of our might holding.”

Hours later they emerged from the home to find shattered glass, broken wooden beams, downed trees and overturned cars.

“I am grateful to [Thomeczek],” says Bonnell.  She says the homeowners that took them in also hosted about seven other people during the storm.

Vesey was so overwhelmed by the community’s generosity, he’s been forever transformed.

“For me going forward, that's now to be expected out of me,’ says Vesey. “Those kinds of actions are something  you can always offer.”

The family is now staying at a hotel in Puerto Rico. They’re encouraging people to donate to relief efforts to help the community that helped them.

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