By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
We had to meet by phone on Monday, as North Alabama was in the middle of quite a snow storm. City Hall was basically closed, APD Chief Presnell had wisely asked people to stay at home if at all possible, and to Mayor Ronnie, it seemed that “The Good Lord and Mother Nature took us out of the hustle and bustle of the new year and said, ‘Nope, you are not in charge. Slow down, take care of yourselves and each other.’”
Mayor Ronnie went on to ask me, “Did you hear about the young man who prayed and felt that God led him to find a missing child?” I hadn’t, and so the mayor sent me the AL.com article that told the remarkable story of Markeith Williams, who on Sunday the 14th, joined the Barbour County search party looking for Phenix Wilkerson, a 4-year-old who had been missing for 50 hours. Markeith had his family, including his evangelist grandmother praying while he, his wife, Valencia, and several others searched, and talked about how when they were getting close to finding Phenix, Markeith’s heart began to rush. He said, “As I was getting closer to him, my head started rushing so that’s how I knew I was getting close. I knew it was God with me.” The little guy was about 150 yards away, divinely unscathed given how long he had been gone, and needed very little medical attention. As is always the case with true heroes, Markeith was not there to toot his own horn. Instead, he simply said, “I was doing that because God sent me to do that.” Quite a story, and quite in keeping with the theme of ‘taking care of yourselves and each other.” And, how amazing it is that this child was found on Sunday in the afternoon just before the weather turned.
The weather had caused the postponing of the annual Martin Luther King Day march and celebration, and as of this writing, the art and essay contest are going to be held this Sunday, January 21 at 2 p.m. at the Veterans Museum. We had planned as always to participate in the annual march which had to be cancelled, and were waiting to hear if there will be a march later on. Celebrating the life of Dr. King caused us both to talk about how much we miss Councilmen Jimmy Gill and Frank Travis. “Every day I miss them,” said Mayor Ronnie, and I added, “So do I.” We chuckled about Jimmy, his wisdom as well as humor, which interestingly pertained to staying safe in the storm. “Jimmy used to tell people that he knew that the trees looked like they had gotten a bad haircut, and that they weren’t happy about it,” said the mayor, and then added, “But it’s the ‘bad haircuts’ that protect the power lines, which is critical in the middle of a storm like this.” He also mentioned that so far, the storm had not been too bad due to the fact that there hadn’t been much wind coming through. Over 70 youth from various churches in our area had been amongst the thousands of Christian teens attending the “Strength to Stand” conference in Pigeon Forge. “They had to cut it short a day and got back last night,” said the mayor. “I am glad they got the chance to go, and that they are home safe,” he added.
The “celebration of the snow” had shown up on the mayor’s street in the form of the antics of three teenagers by the names of Lexi, John David, and Skyler McGee. The three got out in the road and made snow angels and pitched snowballs. City of Athens Communications and Grant Coordinator Holly Hollman had been out on Monday morning walking her dog in the snow and took the serene picture of the antique light framing the “slow-down-snow-down” moment. She quoted in her post one of MLK’s best quotes: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.” So true, and Mayor Marks closed out our time by saying to all of Athens-Limestone County, “Enjoy the snow as much as you can. Stay safe, take care of yourselves and each other.” We then did what we have been doing twice a month since 2011 through thick and thin: pray. And then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner