Johnny Lauder couldn’t persuade his mom to leave her home and travel to a shelter before Hurricane Ian hit Florida.
However, when his 84-year-old wheelchair-bound mom, Karen Lauder, called to tell the water had reached her belly button, he jumped out the window and began swimming to save her.
It’s his mother calling and adores his mother to the moon and back, he claims.
Lauder, 49, is a delivery truck driver in Naples, although he was a Chicago cop and rescue diver in the 1990s. He, his boys, and his mom all reside within four blocks of each other.
His wife and mother-in-law were in Vegas visiting family, so Lauder chose to stay at his son’s house and weather the storm. His youngest remained in frequent contact with his granny.
Lauder packed his boys, his son’s girlfriend, a rabbit, a bird, and a cat into the attic crawl space with food and necessities — as well as “a method to chop through the roof if things went really nasty” — and headed off at 3 p.m. to save his mom.
He leaped out the window, Lauder recounts, after pushing and kicking his way through the water.”Cars were whizzing by. The current was out of control.
He recognized the danger and knew the possibilities – he might be hit by debris, dragged down, thrown into anything, he continued. He passed a boat on the way. He did uncover a life jacket, despite the fact that it was fastened and locked. He figured he’d put it on his mum when he got there, he explains.
He was swimming against the river as he made his way to his mother’s house, which was approximately a half-mile distant. That was the most difficult aspect, he adds. When he was able to stop kicking and pushing through, he grabbed a branch or a pole to shoot a photo because his phone was ringing nonstop. His wife, his family in Miami, and his children in the attic all desired to know how he was doing.
He couldn’t text because his hands were wet, he claims. He could only take his iPhone out of his shoulder pocket, shoot a photo, send it to everyone, and then put it back in and go on.
The streets were so waterlogged that he thinks his pictures “appear like I’m in a lake.” He caught a kneeboard that drifted past and used it to kick through the water.
A caterpillar was on his head in every snap he took.
He also saved the caterpillar, so perhaps he was the guardian angel, he explains.
He claims it took him around 40 minutes to walk the four blocks to his mother’s house, but it felt like an eternity.
He realized she wasn’t going to have much time, he adds. He got to her door and could hear her screams. He saw his mom with water “up to her chin” when he got a window to open, he recalls.
Nonetheless, he put them around her, moved his mom onto a high table, fed her, and warmed her up. They simply got by, he adds. After almost three hours, the water began to recede, and one of his kids came to the rescue, unlocking the front door so Lauder could retrieve his mother’s wheelchair.
When he pulled his mother in the door, the water was still up to her chest. Then Lauder noticed another elderly, arthritic woman close, carrying all she owned in a garbage bag. So he pushed his mother’s wheelchair while carrying that woman. He wasn’t going to abandon her, he adds.
They arrived at a motel a half mile away that he believed was dry. Lauder then requested that hotel workers call the other woman’s family and inform them that she was OK. The hotel said there were no open rooms and demanded Lauder and his mom leave.
He had to push her back to his son’s house and through breast deep water at night with spotlights, he claims. They arrive home, and they’re at his son’s house, which fortunately just had about a foot of water in it.
His mother is currently in the hospital being treated for diseases caused by the contaminated water.
Her house is entirely gone, says Lauder. Everything they own. His house is entirely destroyed. His entire house was submerged in five feet of water.
But he has the most essential thing, he says.
He may have lost his home and possessions, but he did not lose his family or his career. He didn’t give up hope. So here they are, he adds. Life is like a computer; there are two buttons: reset and power — and thank God it was just the reset button that was pressed and not the power.
His family has started a GoFundMe campaign to assist them rebuild. There are so many individuals who have it worse than them, he says. They ‘re OK. Many people were killed. They ‘re content, they’re close, and they’ll make it – they just can’t give up.
Brave Son Swims Through Flood to Save Elderly Mom
An 84-year-old Florida woman in a wheelchair was up to her neck in flooding caused by Hurricane Ian. Her belongings were floating around her. Her son, 49-year-old Johnny Lauder, swam half a mile through a flooded Naples neighborhood to reach her.Posted by Inside Edition on Tuesday, 4 October 2022