Throughout the Outer Banks, friends and family gathered to mark the nation's 242nd birthday with picnics, parades, patriotic concerts and fireworks. 

At the home of Kitty Hawk residents Eleanor and Richard Lee, the day also was a time to reflect on the words of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote: "Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you."

On a recent trip to Ocracoke, a group of people — strangers to the Lees — embodied the spirit of Jefferson's words. 

Eleanor Lee reached out to COAST to send a "shout-out" to three Ocracoke Island "angels": Sherry Atkinson, innkeeper at the Anchorage Inn & Marina; Hyde County Emergency Responder Dana Long; and Capt. Jason Daniels of the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office.

Neither Lee, nor her husband Richard had met any of the three people before a recent medical emergency brought them together, and Lee says that unexpected encounter renewed her faith in society.

The couple had taken the ferry to Ocracoke on June 25 to celebrate their 60th anniversary at the Anchorage Inn, a 35-room hotel located on Silver Lake Harbor. For two days, they reveled in the six decades of wedded bliss they'd shared together, their tiny Shih Tzu in tow.

Ocracoke is one of the couple's favorite spots on the Outer Banks. Any why not? If you want to escape from everything, to unwind and experience sheer relaxation, this enchanting 16-mile stretch of pristine beaches — connected from one end to the other by a two-lane road — is paradise found.

Anyone who's ever visited Ocracoke knows there's something inherently wonderful about being on the island, where the only way on or off is by boat, ferry or small aircraft.

But that same isolation can be problematic when the weight of a genuine emergency is brought the bear.

What Eleanor and Richard Lee discovered on June 27 is that being on one of the most remote spots on the Outer Banks — where the year-round population numbers less than 1,000 — doesn't mean you're on your own, even if you don't know a soul.

Following is a letter Eleanor Lee shared with COAST, and which we, happily, share with you:

Yes, I believe in angels. Let me tell you why.

We made plans to spend our 60th anniversary in Ocracoke at the Anchorage Inn on Silver Lake: Ocracoke is one of our favorite get-aways, and we wanted to be able to arrange accommodations at a hotel that accepted pets, as our 13-year-old Shih Tzu, Mendy, has anxiety issues when she is not with us.

We arrived in Ocracoke on Monday, and we were enjoying the beautiful views from our room at the Anchorage Inn, the delicious food on the island, and lots of rest and relaxation. Tuesday was another beautiful day, and after we enjoyed a delightful lunch, we returned to our room. My husband Richard took our Shih Tzu for a walk. After returning to the hotel, he indicated that he needed to rest before we ventured out to enjoy more of the island.

Within a short period of time, he passed out and was unresponsive. Sherry at the front desk notified 911, and the EMTs from Hyde County and a police officer from Ocracoke, responded right away. They determined immediately that Richard needed to be medevaced to Vidant Hospital in Greenville, 200 miles away.

Sherry stayed with me the entire time, made arrangements for a motel in Greenville that accepted pets, and helped me load my luggage in the car. The police officer, Jason, called the Hatteras Ferry Terminal to arrange priority for me on the ferry back to Hatteras.

All of these ladies and gentleman were unbelievably caring, kind, and concerned. The police officer told me his parents lived in Greenville, and he gave me their telephone number, in case I needed anything. Sherry has called several times since that day to see how Richard is doing, and how I am holding up.

In a world where you mainly hear so many negative stories, I just wanted to give a shout-out to an awesome group of individuals who were my angels in a very difficult time. Richard and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

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