Marine vet braves Hurricane Irma to save neighbor, parrot in Florida

PLANT CITY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Plant City senior citizen says she’s lucky to be alive thanks to her neighbor. A tree that fell during Hurricane Irma nearly crushed her, but it destroyed everything she owns.

“It was really frightening,” said 72-year-old Shari Bickhart.

For the past 40 years, Bickhart has sat in the same chair in her Plant City home. She was right there Sunday night as Irma moved through.

“The next thing I know there was a big gust of wind and all the sudden the wall came crashing in on me,” Bickhart said.

Christina Peters

Bickhart was trapped. She quickly called her neighbor Christina Peters.

“The first thing I saw, because it was dark out, was the tree,” Peters said.

The tree toppled, smashing her car, piercing her mobile home and almost taking Bickhart out in the process.

“When I see that, I’m more terrified than I was that night,” Bickhart added as she looked at the tree sticking in her bedroom window. “That is usually where I sleep.”

Peters, a former Marine captain crawled around in the dark avoiding the wind, downpour and branches to get Shari to safety.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Peters said. “I’m very thankful she is okay.”

Bickhart and her best friend, her 50-year-old parrot named Sammy are staying with Peters, but this tree has left her crushed.

Shari Bickhart and her parrot Sammy.

“I’m not sure where I’m going to go from here,” Bickhart added.

With no insurance, she doesn’t know what to do next to Lanier Road home she’s owned since 1975.

“I’m not a young person,” Bickhart said.  “My plan is to live here until the day I die.”

She survived the storm and she says she will survive this setback too.

Peters says she will make sure of that. She started a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising enough money to get the tree down and fix Bickhart’s home.

“This is a time when we need to be there for her, because she needs it more than ever,” Peters added. “If anyone deserves help or recognition for being a wonderful person It is Shari.”