ELIZABETH CITY, N. C. – A few meters ahead, and the Jayhawk helicopter strikes trees; a few yards to the side, and it touches power lines.
Coast guard pilot Matt Delahunty, of Elizabeth City, N. C., carefully hovering the plane on a flood victim’s home, where Steve Lewis was standing on his roof waving an American flag as the water rose to the second floor of the residence.
Carolinian Steve Lewis is sitting in a basket after being hoisted up from the roof of his house in Rocky Point, N. C.
“It came in fast,” Lewis told Fox News during the helicopter ride. “My house is pretty much a wreck.”
The crew attitude remained even-keeled and certainly during the flight, so it was hard to tell that this is their first roof to the rescue.
“Holy cow!” the flight mechanic Ryan Johnson called, after the help of hoist Lewis in the helicopter. “My adrenaline!”
Johnson said urban rescues are a rarity for the U. S. Coast Guard out of Elizabeth City. About “99.9% of the cases, be done from the shore in the middle of the ocean, with nothing else around,” he added.
In neighborhoods, the crews have to maneuver around the “snag hazard,” such as trees, antennas and power lines. Darren Harrity, a rescue swimmer known for his herculean-like rescues, said: “there is definitely an adrenaline involved,” but not as much nerves. “We train for this kind of things.”
However, among the coast guard members of the military “hardness” and seemingly invincible spirits are just Carolinians, to witness their house is the growing destruction of water.
After finishing a long day of successful rescues, Johnson’s eyes filled, “I am too emotional now,” he warned. “I hugged my children nice and tight, a few days ago, when I got home. It’s just house, so it’s pretty emotional.”
Heavy rain from Florence has ended across North Carolina, but historic flooding continues with several rivers still at a major flood stage.
“We were today, I have family members who were affected pretty severely from the storm, so it is a very close emotional tie,” Johnson said.
Historic floods continues to shock Carolinians, as several rivers have yet to crest.
Delahunty agreed, saying once the adrenaline subsides a rescue, the reality of fellow Carolinians’ condition really pulls at his heartstrings.
Delahunty embraced an emotional survivor, wearing nothing but a few garbage bags, which said that they will not be insured.
“At that time, I was not a coast guard officer, not more, I was just a fellow human being, so I asked her if I could pray with her and I prayed with her,” Delahunty called.
The crew will be reminded during every rescue mission of total destruction in their country of origin – the helicopter that “describe” the view from above. But this team of four Matt Delahunty (pilot), Lindsey Cockburn (co-pilot), Ryan Johnson (flight engineer) and Darren Harrity (rescue swimmer) – told Fox News it is an honor to serve the community that they are so many of them.
From left to right: Darren Harrity, Matt Delahunty, Emilie Ikeda, Lindsey Cockburn, Ryan Johnson
“It’s great to be able to give back to all, it’s given me,” Johnson shared.
Delahunty said that this is what they have signed. “We get to be a part of a really cool, just really great chance to get an answer to a prayer for people who, in many cases, are stranded for the days now,” he added.
With more than 3,000 Coast Guard members respond to Florence, the crews have rescued 193 people and 91 pets in North Carolina from Sunday evening; these figures are expected to grow, such as some rivers have yet to crest.
Heading into another week of long, emotional days, Cockburn said she copes with the exposure to the destruction by reminding themselves of the people’s resilience. “People come back from this; but it may take a while, but people will come back.”
Emilie Ikeda is a multimedia reporter based in Atlanta.