PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - 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.
Mike Jones, best known as 'Salvage Santa', looks 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 – how am I gonna clean this up?," said Jones Thursday as he looked over what remains of his home in Panama City.
"I don’t even know where to start to be honest with you.”
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. 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. I’ve never been this scared in my life,” said Jones.
Memories and toys and pieces of years of hard work are laying in the yard. But none so valuable as what the storm didn't take from him.
“I’m alive. 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,” said Jones.
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, "said Jones, "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."