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“I Didn’t Lose Hope.” Man Battles Hurricane Ian Floodwaters To Save Elderly Mom.

Johnny Lauder swims through floodwater to rescue mother during Hurricane Ian

When Hurricane Ian hit Florida, it was a powerful Category 4 hurricane that brought with it catastrophic flooding, winds, and a record high storm surge.

Many Naples, Florida residents like Karen Lauder refused to leave their homes because they underestimated the intensity of the storms. Karen is 84 years old and relies on a wheelchair to get around because she is missing a leg. Her son, Johnny Lauder, tried repeatedly to get her to leave, but she refused.

Johnny and his whole family live within a few blocks of one another. His wife was out of town during the storm, so the delivery driver and former police officer decided to stay at his son’s house with another son and one of the son’s girlfriend. They kept in constant touch with Karen as the storm raged outside, watching the water rising dangerously all around them. When Karen reported that the water in her house had reached her belly button, he knew he had to take action.

First, Johnny ensured his sons and their pets were taken care of. He opened a small attic crawl space and made everyone climb inside, gave them supplies and water, and made sure they had a way to cut through the roof if the water continued to rise. Then, he dove out of a window and began to swim.

“I jumped out the window,” Johnny recalled. “Cars were floating past me. The current was insane.”

During his time as a Chicago, Illinois police officer, Johnny worked as a rescue diver. He is obviously a strong swimmer, but the flood water was filled with debris and hazardous materials. There was also a strong current, and he had to swim against it for most of his trip to Karen’s.

As he made his way through the water, Johnny stopped periodically to snap selfies to show his worried family that he was okay. He also grabbed helpful items he passed along the way, including a life preserver, a kickboard, and a kayak.

Johnny was racing against the clock. He knew he only had a short period of time to get there before the water rose above Karen’s head. It took him 40 minutes to swim four blocks. The sound of Karen yelling inside was music to his ears!

“The water was up to the windows, and I heard her screaming inside,” he said. “It was a scare and a sigh of relief at the time – a scare thinking she might be hurt, a sigh of relief knowing that there was still air in her lungs.”

“If it would’ve been 20 minutes later, she wouldn’t be here,” Johnny said. “She’s never been happier to see me.”

Karen was shaking like a leaf, so Johnny found some clean sheets and wrapped her up on a table to get warm. About three hours later, the water began to recede slightly. One of Johnny’s sons had followed him to Karen’s house, and the two men were eventually able to get her wheelchair out of the home so they could transport her.

When they started pushing Karen out of the house, the water was still up to her chest. Johnny even rescued another elderly woman nearby who had been stranded by the storm!

Everyone in Johnny’s family is now safe, although Karen is in the hospital being treated for infections she got in the water. They’ve all lost everything they owned, including their houses, but they’re grateful just to be here.

“I might have lost my home, my things, but I didn’t lose family, I didn’t lose my job,” he said. “I didn’t lose hope. So we’re still here. Life is like a computer, there’s two buttons: There’s a reset and a power – and thank God it was just a reset button that got hit and not the power.”

Their family has set up a GoFundMe to help them rebuild.

What a harrowing journey, but if anyone could pull it off, it’s this determined son! Johnny insists he’d do it all again for his mom, putting him squarely in the running for “Son of the Year!”

Don’t forget to share this story of determination and courage to inspire your friends.

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