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“Today is a miraculous day. I am thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family. As a medical missionary, I never imagined myself in this position. When my family and I moved to Liberia last October to begin a two-year term working with Samaritan’s Purse, Ebola was not on the radar. We moved to Liberia because God called us to serve the people of Liberia.
“In March, when we got word that Ebola was in Guinea and had spread to Liberia, we began preparing for the worst. We didn’t receive our first Ebola patient until June, but when she arrived, we were ready. During the course of June and July, the number of Ebola patients increased steadily, and our amazing crew at ELWA Hospital took care of each patient with great care and compassion. We also took every precaution to protect ourselves from this dreaded disease by following MSF and WHO guidelines for safety.
“After taking Amber and our children to the airport to return to the States on Sunday morning, July 20, I poured myself into my work even more than before – transferring patients to our new, bigger isolation unit; training and orienting new staff; and working with our Human Resources officer to fill our staffing needs. Three days later, on Wednesday, July 23, I woke up feeling under the weather, and then my life took an unexpected turn as I was diagnosed with Ebola Virus Disease. As I lay in my bed in Liberia for the following nine days, getting sicker and weaker each day, I prayed that God would help me to be faithful even in my illness, and I prayed that in my life or in my death, He would be glorified.
“I did not know then, but I have learned since, that there were thousands, maybe even millions of people around the world praying for me throughout that week, and even still today. And I have heard story after story of how this situation has impacted the lives of individuals around the globe – both among my friends and family, and also among complete strangers. I cannot thank you enough for your prayers and your support. But what I can tell you is that I serve a faithful God who answers prayers.
“Through the care of the Samaritan’s Purse and SIM missionary team in Liberia, the use of an experimental drug, and the expertise and resources of the health care team at Emory University Hospital, God saved my life – a direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers.
“I am incredibly thankful to all of those who were involved in my care, from the first day of my illness all the way up to today – the day of my release from Emory. If I tried to thank everyone, I would undoubtedly forget many. But I would be remiss if I did not say thank you to a few. I want to thank Samaritan’s Purse, who has taken care of me and my family as though we were their own family. Thank you to the Samaritan’s Purse and SIM Liberia community. You cared for me and ministered to me during the most difficult experience of my life, and you did so with the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
“Thank you to Emory University Hospital and especially to the medical staff in the isolation unit. You treated me with such expertise, yet with such tenderness and compassion. For the last three weeks you have been my friends and my family. And so many of you ministered to me not only physically, but also spiritually, which has been an important part of my recovery. I will never forget you and all that you have done for me.
“And thank you to my family, my friends, my church family and to all who lifted me up in prayer, asking for my healing and recovery. Please do not stop praying for the people of Liberia and West Africa, and for a quick end to this Ebola epidemic.
“My dear friend, Nancy Writebol, upon her release from the hospital, wanted me to share her gratitude for all the prayers on her behalf. As she walked out of her isolation room, all she could say was, ‘To God be the glory.’ Nancy and David are now spending some much needed time together.
“Thank you for your support through this whole ordeal. My family and I will now be going away for a period of time to reconnect, decompress and continue to recover physically and emotionally. After I have recovered a little more and regained some of my strength, we will look forward to sharing more of our story; but for now, we need some time together after more than a month apart. We appreciate having the opportunity to spend some time in private before talking to some of you who have expressed an interest in hearing more of our journey. Thank you for granting us that.
“Again, before we slip out, I want to express my deep and sincere gratitude to Samaritan’s Purse, SIM, Emory and all of the people involved in my treatment and care. Above all, I am forever thankful to God for sparing my life and am glad for any attention my sickness has attracted to the plight of West Africa in the midst of this epidemic. Please continue to pray for Liberia and the people of West Africa, and encourage those in positions of leadership and influence to do everything possible to bring this Ebola outbreak to an end. Thank you.”
CHARLOTTE — Some changes are coming to Carowinds.
Amusement park officials announced Thursday morning that a new roller coaster will open next spring.
The “Fury 325″ is billed as the world’s tallest and fastest “Giga-Coaster.”
The park says it’s the largest single investment ever made in its history.
Carowinds will also offer new entertainment and dining options as well as a new dining plan option for season pass holders for the 2015 season.
Copyright © Halifax Media Group
RALEIGH — Legislators have completed their work for the year.
After final votes throughout the day on Wednesday, the state House and Senate adjourned sine die, and leaders say they believe they have accomplished a lot this session.
Wednesday marked the 162nd and final day of the 2014 legislative session.
“With that we are done with the session. I appreciate the hard work of all the members of the General Assembly and wish you all very well,” said Rep. Thom Tillis.
Lawmakers were ready to pack their bags and head home, after a few final debates and some final farewells with some members paying tribute to Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, who won’t be returning next year.
“I do admire your grasp of the importance of things and your leadership ability. And I do believe you have done some very good things here,” said Rep. Larry Pittman.
“I’ve had many bosses and many people I have worked under, and it has been a tremendous honor to have worked under you,” said Rep. Marcus Brandon.
This session stretched longer than many leaders had anticipated highlighted by battles between the House and Senate over tough issues, like the budget adjustments.
But leaders say that is to be expected.
“We’re not always going to see eye to eye with folks in the other party, and we’re not always going to see eye to eye with folks in the same party. It’s natural, it’s part of the process. I think at times the fact that there are cameras everywhere you go, the fact that there are folks interested in what you’re doing, some things get blown out of proportion,” said Sen. Phil Berger.
Lawmakers say there are always things that get left on the table when session ends. In this case, some job incentive programs, that failed to get House approval this week. It’s a decision Speaker Tillis says is troublesome for the governor.
“It is within his power to call us back to a special session. I am not certain that he would do that,” said Rep. Thom Tillis.
By early afternoon, the House completed its works. The Senate followed suit a few hours later.
Lawmakers had discussed possibly returning in November to discuss Medicaid reform. But that issue has now been put off until January when legislators return for next year’s session.
In their final day of session, lawmakers approved coal ash legislation, and one job incentive bill, but chose not to vote on a fix for teacher assistant funding.
RALEIGH — The coal ash clean up bill is now on its way to the governors’ desk to be signed into law.
The House passed the bill 83 to 14 Wednesday afternoon, and the Senate passed it later Wednesday evening.
The General Assembly’s decision to take up the bill Wednesday came as a surprise after negotiations broke down earlier in the week. Speaker Thom Tillis said last week he expected the legislature to take up the issue in 2015.
Coal ash cleanup was a key priority during the short session due to a massive spill from a Duke Energy plant in Eden, N.C. earlier this year.
Among other things, the final bill defines low priority sites. The House lead negotiator said while it does not satisfy some calls to name more coal ash ponds as priorities for cleanup, they changed the criteria for which ones qualify.
“At the end of the day, if a pond is polluting one’s neighbor’s land, that pond is going to have to be cleaned up,” said Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Henderson County Republican.
One item that is not in the final bill is a determination of who will pay for this massive clean up effort. Bill writers say that is a complicated issue, and would have crumbled the compromise.
Lawmakers point to a moratorium on Duke Energy contemplating any rate increases until next January. But opponents say that is not enough.
“I think we could make the policy determination that this cost is not going to be born by the ratepayers of North Carolina,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Guilford County Democrat.
Members of the environmental community have also expressed concerns about the bill, and released the following statement:
“Duke Energy is responsible for the third largest coal ash spill in the nation’s history, and our state legislature is allowing Duke to dictate what should be done about it. It’s hard to fathom why our elected leaders aren’t doing more to protect the public. Who are they working to protect?”
However state leaders say the work that has been completed should be commended, and that North Carolina should be recognized for being the first state in the country to address the issue.
“We don’t have any models. We’ve created a model in North Carolina after years of inaction by all states and inaction of prior legislatures, we stepped up and did something that we knew would be controversial. And there are going to be people at opposite ends of the spectrum,” said Rep. Thom Tillis.
In a bi-partisan show of support by the House, the coal as cleanup bill was approved and is awaiting action by the Senate.
Legislative leaders say they consider this bill to be “part one” of the coal ash clean up effort and say they expect to see further legislation in coming years.
HARNETT COUNTY — The Harnett County Sheriff’s Office states gun permit applications are on the rise this month. A recent spike in crime this summer concerns some residents.
Harnett County residents remain on edge.
“Seems to have gotten worse: property crime, crime against people, robberies. So people have that on their mind pretty much. It’s a big concern with a lot of folks,” said Gunner’s Choice Outfitters owner Dwight Weaver.
“We try to have community watch where I live, but of course, thieves know where and when and how to get in,” said Dunn resident Lehman Barefoot.
After a recent shooting at a strip mall last month, Sheriff Larry Rollins spoke at a community meeting and urged people to protect themselves. One gun store owner in Dunn said they’ve noticed a change even before the sheriff’s comments.
“We have folks come in all the time. A lot of folks that we’re seeing are elderly that may have old outdated firearms in the house,” said Weaver.
And they aren’t the only ones. On average the Harnett County Sheriffs Office says they receive between 25 and 50 gun permit applications in a week. In the week following the sheriff’s comments, they received 125 applications. Some residents weren’t surprised by those numbers.
“That’s the Constitution. And by the Constitution we have a right to bear arms,” said Barefoot.
While others worried about what might happen if more shootings occur.
“We don’t own any but if it continues I might have to get one just to protect myself,” said Dunn resident Shirley Blue.
While some residents look for their own solution authorities continue to investigate last month’s shooting that killed a Spring Lake teenager.
SURF CITY, N.C. — A loggerhead turtle from the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital got to head home Wednesday.
The turtle, named Gunnar, was found last September by Gunnar Jones, age 9, in a boat basin off Figure Eight Island.
“I saw this like, big blob, just floating every day at five. And I told my parents that it was a sea turtle, and they didn’t believe me. And then my dad saw it and then they called the turtle hospital to come [to] it,” Jones said.
Sea Turtle Hospital volunteer Olivia Gaitros responded to the call.
“It appeared that he was very sick. He was covered in barnacles and very underweight,” Gaitros said. “We were able to get him eating fairly quickly. We hit a few roadblocks in his treatment, but eventually we got him to where he was able to eat on his own and eat enough to put on some weight.”
Now, after a year in rehab, Gunnar the turtle is heading back out to sea.
“Truly, the turtle was on the final stages and on the way out, so if it had not been for Gunnar the boy’s persistence and Olivia jumping in to rescue the turtle, Gunnar would not have the chance today to head out home,” said Jean Beasley, director of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital.
Gunnar Jones’ parents even drove him down from their Washington D.C. home just to see the release.
“It was awesome,” Jones said. “Because I got to be with my turtle.”
Gunnar the turtle wasted no time heading out to sea.
“And obviously, Gunnar the turtle knew where it was, the right way to go and took off,” Beasley said. “So we wish that turtle well, and a long and happy life.”
Beasley said Gunnar the turtle was likely entering his teenage years. She said he could live to be 100 years old.
WINSTON-SALEM—Attorneys for Terry Johnson continue to chip away at the government’s civil rights case against the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office.
Johnson is accused of discriminatory policing against Latinos.
Several witnesses testified for the defense on Tuesday, and said they had never heard Johnson use racial slurs, or saw him discriminate against anyone.
A Spanish teacher at Alamance Community College said she was asked to teach about Spanish and Latino culture to deputies starting in 2011 and now teachers three classes a week.
A DEA agent also testified that Alamance County had seen a growing problem with drug trafficking, linked to Mexican cartels funneling cocaine an cash through the county.
The department’s personnel and training director testified that officers had taken 50,000 hours of training during the five year period leading up to last year, including minority sensitivity training.
Johnson is on the defense’s list of witnesses.
A middle school team from North Carolina will hang an international championship banner when students return soon from summer vacation.
The Yadkin Patriots of Forbush Middle recently won the 29th Annual International Hunter Youth Education Challenge in Mansfield, Pa.
Teams from across North America competed in marksmanship events for .22 rifles, black powder rifles, shotguns and archery. Other tests completing the competition included orienteering, wildlife identification, hunter ethics/responsibility and a hunter safety trail.
Members of the champion team are Colton Bullin, Brady Carter, Jacob Matthews, Austin Stanley and Matthew Lineberry. Their coaches are Carson Hobson and Brian Lineberry.
Other North Carolinians fared well in the competition. Hunter Efird of Albemarle finished second in the senior individual category.
Forbush High of Yadkin County placed third in the senior division. The team roster included Jordan Dinkins, Colton Horn, Dylan Horn, Dylan Poplin and Jordan Yale. The coach is Chris Poplin.—OBSERVER NEWS SERVICE
S.C. angler wins $500,000 at Lake Murray
Professional bass fisherman Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C., has rallied from an tough season start to win one of his sport’s biggest prizes.
Gagliardi captured the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup and its $500,000 top prize last weekend with a four-day catch at Lake Murray of 19 largemouth bass weighing 51 pounds, two ounces.
He triumphed by a single ounce over Scott Canterbury of Springville, Ala. Just 11 ounces separated first place from fifth at the big reservoir west of Columbia. Canterbury won $60,000.
Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., finished fourth for $40,000 and Bryant Thrift of Shelby was seventh, winning $26,000.
An inadvertent rules infraction in the Walmart-backed tour’s first tournament of 2014 at Florida’s Lake Okeechobee led to Gagliardi’s disqualification.
“This proves staying positive brings about the best outcome,” he said. “To do this here in South Carolina is very special.”
Gagliardi caught his bass on a mix of lures that included artificial worms, flukes and swimbaits. He ranged from the Saluda River to waters near the dam.
Young Belmont fisherman Brian New took the title in the Co-Angler division with a two-day catch weighing 15 pounds, 14 ounces. He won $50,000.—ONS
Catches of the week
• A flounder of 7 pounds near Ocean Isle by former Lake Norman resident Woody Wooten.
• Sailfish boated and released off Hatteras Village by Kristine and Thomas Lovitt of Wilmington.
• King mackerel of 31 and 21 pounds at Jolly Roger Pier on Topsail Island by 11-year-old Alex Aponte.
• A blue marlin boated and released off Hatteras by James McDermott of Woodland.
GREENSBORO — Business leaders speaking at the second annual Global Opportunities Summit expected the Triad’s growing aviation and aerospace sector will generate new jobs in the coming years. One said the two industries could provide the single greatest economic opportunity for the region.
The Triad is home to major aerospace and aviation employers, TIMCO Aviation Services and Honda Aircraft Company. There’s another piece of the industry puzzle that figures to a source of significant hiring in the years ahead.
“The real story is the supplier network,” said Penny Whiteheart, managing director of NC Aerospace. “The value chain of more than 200 companies here in the Piedmont Triad that are supporting aviation and aerospace, and adding jobs and capital investment in our region and our state.”
The Triad is well-positioned to serve the Americas, European and African aviation and aerospace markets, which will attract other companies and spur jobs creation.
“Companies can manufacture things here,” said Kip Blakely, vice-president of industry and government relations at TIMCO Aviation Services. “They can put them on a vessel and go across see to France to Airbus, or they can go by rail or by truck to Boeing in Washington State, so we’re really right in the center of the marketplace here.”
Plans to open an additional 1,000 acres at PTI Airport with runway access should prove attractive to business, and the growth in aviation and aerospace is spurring some existing companies to shift gears.
“Companies that have been doing business here are getting into the aerospace market and being able to compete and win business,” said Whiteheart.
Blakely said aviation offered the greatest opportunity for the region.
“To grow new jobs, create more business, and to attract more business into our region,” he said.