Johnny Lauder braved his way through the storm to rescue his 84-year-old mother, Karen, who was wheelchair-bound.
In a disastrous week, Hurricane Ian left Florida damaged with the Category 4 Storm turning Naples into a debris-filled river. However, braving all odds, 49-year-old Johnny Lauder went through the storm to rescue his 84-year-old mother, Karen, who was wheelchair-bound, according to the Washington Post. The weather was extremely tough to predict and communication was blocked which made his rescue mission a lot more difficult. Forecasts had initially predicted the hurricane would hit the Tampa Bay area but soon it turned south, making landfall in southwest Florida.
As Hurricane Ian battered Florida last week, leaving neighborhoods in Naples looking like they had been swallowed by a river, Johnny Lauder dove into the murky, debris-filled waters that others were trying to escape. https://t.co/sdOe9hiN9D pic.twitter.com/fL6sedKScr— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) October 3, 2022
Once the storm hit Naples, there was no power, and the houses were completely swamped in water which "left the downtown area looking like Atlantis," said Lauder. The rescue diver and former Chicago police officer had sworn he would save his mother, whose legs are amputated, at any cost. Karen lived a few blocks away from Lauder.
Lauder, his son, and his mother, all lived in the same Naples community and had chosen to be well-prepared for the storm. They hadn't evacuated but Lauder shifted to his son's place while Karen insisted she would stay at her home on account of privacy. "She’s a very stubborn 84-year-old woman. And she said, 'You’re not taking me anywhere. I won’t have any privacy. I’m staying home,'" shared Lauder.
When the water began rising in their home, Lauder’s two sons, his son’s girlfriend, and their animals took refuge in the attic. Soon he received an SOS call from Karen as the gushing water had reached her chest. "That’s when I knew I had to bounce," Lauder said. "So I jumped out of the window and began wading through the water. If I would’ve waited, she wouldn’t be here. And that’s my mom. I would’ve done it for anybody’s mom or anyone else in that situation. You know, that’s what you’re supposed to do," added Lauder.
Lauder shared a recording of his journey through the streets that had turned into rivers after the flooding, CNN reported. "I just wanted to get there. I knew time was of the essence. She was running out of time. And you’ve just got to stay focused and dig and dig and dig. The water was up to the windows, and I heard her screaming inside," Lauder can be seen sharing.
"It was like an act of God when the kneeboard just floated in front of me," he said. "There was nothing on the street and it just appeared, like, 'Wow, okay, someone’s looking out for me.'" He went through neck-deep fast-paced water for half a mile and finally reached his mother. "She was the happiest she’s ever been to see me," Lauder said.
"I've been swimming forever."— CNN (@CNN) October 4, 2022
Johnny Lauder documented his journey through floodwaters to rescue his mother who was stranded by Hurricane Ian's storm surge. Watch him recount the ordeal to CNN's @kasie: https://t.co/PqXymGNlez
He saw that his mother was drenched and "shaking like a Chihuahua." Lauder wrapped his mother comfortably in dry sheets and stacked tables on top of each other. They then waited patiently for the water level to reduce. After a while, his younger son arrived to pull them out of the flooded house. As they turned to go back to the son's house, one of Karen's neighbors needed help. Lauder's son took his grandmother out through the water — now below the waist — on a wheelchair and Lauder carried the other woman to a hotel to safety.
The storm took at least 58 lives and destroyed a lot of property. Lauder and his family lost two houses, their belongings, and cars, but Lauder said that everything that was lost could be replaced. "I have my mom, my sons, and my job. So I still have my hope," he said. He is now living with his son and is waiting for his mother to join them once the hospital discharges her after her infected wounds get treated from the bacteria-ridden water. "She’s warm, she’s safe – that’s all that matters," Lauder said. His sister-in-law, from Miami, opened a GoFundMe account that has raised over $3,400 to help the family start from scratch. "I'd still save my mother all over again, but it’s definitely better to not stick around."
Cover Image Source: GoFundMe