Amid the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian is a reminder that the human spirit can withstand whatever nature throws at it.
The storm smashed into Florida on Wednesday, leaving at least 67 dead, according to CNN.
Karen Lauder of East Naples in Collier County could have been one of them. She’s 64 and handicapped, but did not evacuate. She made it out alive thanks to her son, Johnny, a former police and rescue diver, according to WBBH-TV in Fort Myers.
“I could have gone to a shelter, but I didn’t think it’d be that bad,” Karen Lauder told the station.
Then Ian hit. Johnny Lauder, who had also remained in his own East Naples home with his children, recalled the scene.
“The water started getting even higher, and at that point, I knew things were going to be bad,” he said.
He moved his three children and pets to the attic crawl space, WBBH reported, and went out to save his mother.
“At that time, I dove out that window because my mom called and said it was up to her chest,” Lauder told the station.
Karen Lauder’s house was a half-mile away. The waters were flooding everything in sight. But Lauder struggled on through the 5-foot storm surge.
“It was a very rough swim, if you call it that, and I knew the water was coming up faster and faster. Who wouldn’t go for their mom?” he said.
“I was aware of the dangers any type of current could take me, I could be hit by debris, but my mom was there and I knew she didn’t have much time,” Lauder said.
Trying to keep up the spirits of his family, he sent photos as he struggled.
“I sent a picture to let everybody know I was OK, kept going,” he said.
Along the way, he found a life jacket and a kneeboard.
“I’ve never seen her more happy to see me. It was already up to her chin. Any more and if I would have been a half hour later my… she wouldn’t be here,” Lauder said.
Lauder wrapped his mom in something dry, set her on a table above the reach of the water and waited for when the waters would recede so she could be wheeled to safety.
“I’m just so glad I’m here today,” Karen Lauder said.
Lauder said the houses and everything in them are a loss, but not what matters most.
“All that can be replaced, life can’t,” he said.
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