Aulander’s Finest

Published 9:54 am Thursday, October 27, 2016

AULANDER – The Town of Aulander took long lunch break on Friday of last week to honor its employees and recognize their dedication to the town, especially during the recent Aulander Peanut Festival and the recent floodwaters generated by Hurricane Matthew.

The event started at noon with a meal of sandwiches and soups specially prepared by town staffers.

After everyone enjoyed the delicious meal, Mayor Larry Drew was joined by the town’s commissioners to present special awards to some of the town’s workers.

“We appreciate all our employees do 365 days a year.” Drew said.

Those recognized were Town Hall employees Renee Benton (Town Clerk), Gayle Deanes (Assistant Town Clerk), and Janice Babb.

Public Works employee Kevin Smith was saluted for his work in keeping the town’s wastewater treatment system operational.

Maintenance Department employees Steven Draper, Ben Draper, Austin Hurdle, and Jeff Edwards were recognized for their hard work.

Making those presentations were Town Commissioners Bobbie Parker, Tommy Hale, and Ron Poppell.

Mayor Drew saved his last awards for Ben Draper and Austin Hurdle, the two town employees who risked their own lives to pull a man from a submerged vehicle on Hwy. 11 during Hurricane Matthew.

Draper and Hurdle worked all weekend to take care of the town’s residents and keep the town running. They also serve on the town’s volunteer fire department.

Out on a mission to help some people get safely o an emergency shelter, Draper and Hurdle came upon a nearly submerged vehicle that had been swept off the road into a ditch by swiftly running floodwaters. A man was inside the vehicle that was nearly full of water.

“We couldn’t wait,” Austin said. “We had to get him to safety while we could.”

Draper added, “We couldn’t just watch him drown. We had to do something.”

The water was moving too fast for good footing, so they improvised. The grabbed some jumper cables, with Draper standing in swift-running waist-deep water on the shoulder of the road while Austin inched downward into neck-deep water in the canal ditch to reach the SUV.

The driver grabbed the end of the jumper cables and Draper and Hurdle Austin managed to get him up and into one of their trucks.

“I thank the good Lord we were able to be there at the right time,” Draper said.

Hurdle said, “If we had waited, we’d have been too late.”

They both said it took every bit of strength they had to perform the rescue because it was very hard just to stand upright in the swiftly running water.

“They are heroes,” said their boss, Aulander Public Works Supervisor Steven Draper. “The two employees that saved this man are 20 year old kids. When they arrived back at our fire station, a couple more and myself were kidding them about being heroes, very humbly they said, ‘We were just in the right place at the right time,’ but I’d bet the guy they pulled from the car would probably disagree.”

He added that utilizing the jumper cables to stabilize the rescue operation, “Just shows you don’t always have the exact tools you need. You just have to do the best you can with what you have.”

Drew said during Friday’s luncheon, “They acted quickly and decisively, used ingenuity, and courageously and intentionally saved a man’s life. God put them in the right place at the right time.

“We are grateful we can celebrate today,” Drew said. “The people in our community appreciate our employees. We can’t be more thankful.”