Son’s photos show him rescuing Mom from Ian’s flood waters

In one photo, Johnny Lauder’s 86-year-old mother is submerged almost to her shoulders in black, murky water at her Florida home and stares open-mouthed directly at the camera.

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In another, she lies just above the waterline on a table, wrapped in sheets to keep warm. In another case, she is pushed through the water in a wheelchair, her rescue almost complete.

The photos were taken after Hurricane Ian made landfall last Wednesday, bringing with it a powerful storm surge and winds of 150 mph. They tell the story of Lauder’s journey to rescue his mother, Karen Lauder, from the home she refused to leave despite the family’s pleas.

He sent the short videos and photos to his family, letting them know he was fine.

“That’s how I unintentionally documented the whole ordeal,” he said.

Before the storm hit, Lauder said his mother — who lost a leg and is confined to a wheelchair — “kicked and yelled” and said she didn’t want to leave her home in Naples, Fla. “We didn’t evacuate them because we couldn’t leave them behind,” he explained.

She hadn’t anticipated the level of destruction Ian would bring. Speaking from his son’s home on Tuesday, Lauder said his mother’s home was flooded about six inches deep during Hurricane Irma in 2017, so she said Ian felt the same result.

Instead, Ian devastated Florida in one of the strongest storms on record in the United States, sending more than three feet of water over her home and trapping her inside. She called her son for help.

“She said the water ran up to her wheelchair and hit her belly button,” Lauder said. He hid in his son’s house, 0.8 km from his mother.

Lauder, who said he was a rescue diver, jumped out the window. He swam, walked, waded and kicked through water for about 45 minutes to get to her home. He said a van and a couple of cars floated past him as he dodged sparking power poles.

Lauder said he heard his mother scream as he approached.

“It was a feeling of fear and relief at the same time,” he said. “The horror was I didn’t know if something fell on her or if she was pinched and injured. But the relief was knowing there was still air in her lungs.”

He placed her on a table and wrapped her in dry sheets from a high shelf. He worried about the wounds around her body – open wounds that were dangerously susceptible to infection in the bacterial flood waters.

They waited three hours for the water to recede so he could wheel them through the streets in their wheelchair. When the water rose a few feet, he called his 20-year-old son to join them and help get Grandma to safety.

Around 1 a.m. — about 11 hours after Lauder’s mother called him for help — Lauder returned to his older son’s home with his mother and younger son in tow.

Lauder said his mother was later taken to a hospital because she had some infections. “But she’s been treated and she’s warm. She is lying in a soft comfortable bed. She’s good,” he added.

Cassandra Clark, Lauder’s sister-in-law in Miami, started GoFundMe to raise money for Lauder, his mother and sons.

“While we are so thankful that our family is physically healthy, they lost absolutely everything in this storm and sadly didn’t have renters insurance,” Clark wrote.

The site raised over $17,000 on Tuesday.

“I’m stunned that all of these people are helping me and don’t even know me,” Lauder said.

He hopes people now know to evacuate. “My mother has changed her tone: she will evacuate next time,” he said. “I hope people learn from the mistakes of others and not their own.” Son’s photos show him rescuing Mom from Ian’s flood waters

Grace Reader

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