The Montecito community of Southern California is best known for its celebrities, as the home of luminaries such as Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres.
But recently, the posh area has made headlines for the devastating mudslides that have swept away homes — and claimed nearly 20 lives.
Montecito resident Berkeley Johnson got to see the horror firsthand. During the very early hours of Jan. 9, a 4-foot-high wall of mud slammed into his house.
“It was a miracle, that baby was just came down, washed down in all that insanity”
Berkeley Johnson, the man who rescued a two-year-old girl from the mudslides in California speaks to @rachelburden after 7am.
— BBC Radio 5 live (@bbc5live) January 11, 2018
“I heard the rumbling of the rocks, and I looked up, and the river and the trees were coming down like chum, chum, chum,” he told KSBY.
“We ran into the house and right then the boulders busted through our house.”
Johnson and his wife Karen had made their way up to the roof before the wave hit, so they had a front-row seat to see the torrent of soil, broken tree trunks, and battered automobiles that rushed through their hilly neighborhood. The cacophony was deafening.
When the mudslide finally stopped, the couple climbed down to survey the wreckage, and they heard something, something unmistakable. It was the piteous cries of a small child.
But Johnson and Karen couldn’t see a child anywhere. Then the truth dawned for both of them: The toddler was buried beneath all the mud.
“I don’t know how we heard it, because it was so loud,” he said during an interview with CBS Evening News.
“Went into this pile, and down in the muck in the middle of nowhere, there was a little baby.
“This little child just in the mud … tangled in the roots and metal and the rock, and if we weren’t standing within two feet of that thing, we wouldn’t have ever heard it. … Unbelievable.”
The couple began to dig, and when they got about four feet down, they found the child. By that time, first responders had arrived, and they immediately transported the girl to the hospital.
“I hope it’s okay,” Johnson said. “I’m glad we got it out, but who knows what else is out there.”
The mudslides have killed at least 17 people, but the Johnson family has managed to give one little life a fighting chance.
What’s more, they rescued something else the very next day: their pet rabbit they had thought was lost.
Johnson’s placement and the timing of their discovery is nothing short of providential. Thank God he and his wife, though they suffered loss of their personal belongings, were able to save something far more precious — and though the 2-year-old’s condition at this time is unknown, we are hoping and praying that she pulls through and that her family can be found alive and well.
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