MILTON — Tommy Burgs didn't realize a flat tire would have made such a difference in his life.
Burgs was evacuating with his family and pets to the Milton Kampgrounds of America last week. He would have to return home to Pembroke Pines near Fort Lauderdale, where he is a police officer, but wanted to ensure his family was safe during the storm.
Not even two hours into their trip, Burgs got a flat tire on his truck. He put the spare on and made it to Milton, but knew he was going to have to replace the tire.
While running errands for scarce hurricane supplies, Burgs went to the local Firestone dealer in Milton where he met Manager James Gilmore. Gilmore didn't have the right tires in stock, so his good friend David Cooper drove over to Pensacola to pick them up. But instead of just picking up two new tires, Cooper took it upon himself to purchase four tires for Burgs.
Gilmore said it's not the first kind gesture his friend has ever made.
"It was kind of a spiritual moment, but it didn't surprise me," Gilmore said. "We're just simple, country people ... neighbors helping neighbors. There's always someone willing to lend a hand in Milton."
At first, Burgs misunderstood when he was told he was getting four new tires. He tried to politely say he only asked for two, but Cooper told him "You're getting four tires. You're not paying and you're not allowed to say no." When Cooper came back with the tires, he also surprised Burgs with two weeks of MREs, 20 gallons of gasoline and five gallons of water.
Cooper said he "just happened to be in tune with God" that day.
"I did what I thought was right," he said nonchalantly. "Everybody can do something. ... It just makes the world a better place."
Burgs calls Cooper his "angel in blue jeans." To try and make some kind gesture, Burgs went across the street to the Milton Quality Bakery, but the folks there wouldn't take his money, either, and sent him on his way with doughnuts to share.
Bakery owner Frances Malone Michener said it's just the way her family is.
"It's the natural thing to do," she said.
Burgs said the outpouring of kindness was overwhelming. He took the time to write a Facebook post about his Milton experience, which has more than 12,000 likes.
When he returned home to Pembroke Pines to report for duty, Burgs said his family was lucky. They still had power. Not a shingle was torn from the roof. Since he's been back home, he's been working 12- to 15-hour days.
"We're in recovery mode right now," he said. "One step at a time, we'll get back on our feet."
Burgs shared the supplies Cooper got him with a special-needs family who needed gasoline for their generator. It shows how far an act of kindness can go.
As a police officer, Burgs said the goodwill from Cooper has given him a more positive outlook.
"It's recharged my batteries," he said. "My wife and and I have been making a list of where we might like to retire. ... Milton is now at the top of that list. It's heaven on Earth."