Hurricane Lee offshore in mid-September created spectacular skies and big surf on Ocracoke. Photo: C. Leinbach

One of the reasons Ocracoke is special is that when someone, including visitors, has a crisis, islanders will pitch in to help.

That’s what Dan and Pam O’Sullivan of McLeansville discovered in mid-September when a rogue wave captured their car keys.

The two had rented a car for their four-day Ocracoke vacation.

They had locked their car and put their cell phones and the key fob in a waterproof pouch to take onto the beach just beyond the Pony Pen.

This was while Hurricane Lee was far offshore creating big surf.

“There was about a two-and-a-half-foot wave that came up to my thigh and to my wife’s tummy and knocked us both down,” he said. “It took the bag that had the phones and the key. I mean, it sucked it back out.”

Some people on the beach offered to drive them back to the Pony Island Inn where they were staying so that they could work on the problem.

“The people at the Pony Island let me use their phone and a portable one,” Dan said. “They were just so nice.”

First, they called Enterprise Rental Car to try to get another car.

After a series of back-and-forth phone calls, including one in which Enterprise suggested they call an Uber, Enterprise just didn’t get where they were.

“I was promised a car I think four different times that never showed,” Dan said.

They’d heard about Jesse Spencer’s beach towing business, and he was able to get into the car to get their stuff out.

Enterprise even sent a flatbed tow truck to pick up their stranded car – but didn’t bring one for them to drive, Dan said.

After more go-rounds with Enterprise, the couple finally hired the island’s local “taxi,” Javier Rivera, to drive them up to Kitty Hawk to get another car.

In an amazing act of prescience, Dan had, a few years back, opened an account at the First National Bank “just in case.”

“Judy Garrish was outstanding,” Dan said about the bank manager who helped them get money out of their account.

At one point, Cathy Perez, a server at the Pony Island Inn, offered to drive them somewhere, but they declined thinking Enterprise would send a car.

As the ordeal unfolded, they became celebrities of sorts.

“The whole island heard about it,” Dan said.

But he was upbeat about the misadventure.

“The islanders were outstanding,” he said.

He and Pam thank all on Ocracoke who helped them.

This story illustrates islanders’ understanding of what it means to live here because we know that you just can’t “get an Uber” or dash off to Walmart at midnight if you need something.

In this season of thanks, we are fortunate to live in a place where the community jumps in to help folks in need.

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