Jackson County first responder rebuilds after Hurricane Michael

JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - In an emergency, law enforcement officers are expected to drop everything and report for duty.

One year after Hurricane Michael, Jackson County sheriff's Captain Virgil Watson, and his wife Karen, are still rebuilding. (WJHG/WECP)

Jackson County Sheriff's Captain Virgil Watson experienced that first hand after Hurricane Michael.

"Your responsibility to the community sort of overwhelms the responsibility to your own property and everything... you try to make sure the community as a whole is safe," said Captain Virgil Watson, Jackson County Sheriff's Office.

Watson was stationed at the Emergency Operations Center as the storm made landfall, but his wife evacuated to Kentucky.

"I missed my family, but I knew I had that responsibility to the community," said Watson.

During a major hurricane, first responders can expect to stay behind, even while their families evacuate. But their sacrifices oftentimes go beyond the call of duty.

For Watson's wife Karen, Michael was especially hard, because she survived Hurricane Andrew in 1992... and had to go through it all over again.

"It was several days before I could even come and look at my house," said Watson.

When he did make it home, he found he was like many in the community he serves, dealing with destruction, and a house beyond repair.

"You're anxious to see what type of damage and what you're facing," said Watson.

But he had a job to do.

"I think the first responders, not seeing their families, just going by and saying OK, and then leaving it on the spouse to have to deal with insurance, with the cleanup, with the people coming by," said Karen Watson, Jackson County Sheriff's Office.

One year after Hurricane Michael, the Watsons are still living in a camper right outside their old home.

"I know it's rebuildable, and we were alive. And there's a lot of people that did lose their lives, so I have to be thankful for that," said Karen.

While the rebuilding process has been difficult., the Watsons are optimistic about the future and are proud to serve their community during good times, and bad.

"I think people are stronger. They're stronger now. And they know that they're not invulnerable, that a major disaster can happen to us," said Watson.