PANAMA CITY, Fl. (WDBJ7) - Officer Mike Jones is used to rebuilding broken things. As Bay County's Salvage Santa, he's dedicated decades to building bikes and toys for children each Christmas.
The Chief of Safety and Security for Bay District Schools is best known as "Salvage Santa."
Thursday, he looked over what remains of his home in Panama City following Hurricane Michael.
But fixing the home he's lived in since he was 19 is a big task even for the big man himself.
"Where am I gonna start, you know," he said, looking around. "How am I gonna clean this up?
Jones rode out the storm in his home with his wife and grandchildren, watching his home fly away.
“This scared me more than the shootout," Jones said, referring to the 2010 incident he responded to in which a gunman held school board members at gunpoint and fired at them.
Jones said this time in his house, all he could do was pray and use his body to protect his two grandchildren.
"I was praying to God, I’m telling you. My house was coming up off the ground. We could feel the house moving. And I was just praying God, please stop. I mean I was scared to death," Jones said. "I’ve never been this scared in my life."
Memories and toys and pieces of years of hard work are laying in the yard. But none are as valuable as what the storm didn't take from him.
“I’m alive," he said emphatically. "When the storm was over and it was safe to come outside and my wife and I walked out on the porch. And we just hugged each other and kissed and hugged and held our grand babies. And she said what are we gonna do and I said I don’t care we’re alive."
Jones' workshop is gone. Just a few bikes are left behind, those that haven't yet been taken by looters. But even after all this Jones is making a promise.
“Of all the things my 9-year-old granddaughter asked me when we went out on the porch to look around and she stared crying, she saw all of Papa’s antique stuff out here and she said, 'Papa, all your bikes are still there. Are we still gonna have Christmas?’ I said we’re gonna have a Christmas. I promise you, Bay County, Mike Jones will have a Christmas. I might have to do it out of the little shoe box I got left, but we’ll figure out something. We’ll, we’ll take care of that. So Bay County, we’re gonna need your help, but we’re gonna have Christmas in Bay County. I promise you that. I promise you. We’ll figure out something."