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"I knew at that point I had to do this myself.”

"I knew at that point I had to do this myself.”

Disaster Recovery

From the second floor of her condo in Naples, Robin Mulkern heard a woman call for help from one floor below. She was trapped in her unit as flood waters from Hurricane Ian rose rapidly throughout the city.

She scurried down with her husband, Dan Mulkern, to where 92-year-old Louise Murphy was in a desperate situation. But what happened next is evidence that God was in the waters with them.

He first called 9-1-1, but the operator—Jennifer Casciano—told him rescuers couldn’t come because the roads were impassible.

“She was incredibly nice,” Dan said. “But I knew at that point I had to do this myself.”

Dan is a roofer from Pittsburgh and had tools in his truck, so he waded through powerful winds and rising waters filled with debris to retrieve them after realizing he couldn’t get Louise’s door to open. Time was a factor as water poured into her dwelling.

“I grabbed a power saw and a hammer,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of time to think. Luckily, I’m used to working with tools.”

Lucky? Or was it divine intervention that had the right person, with the right equipment, in the right place at a time of desperate need?

He sawed a large hole in Louise’s door and used the hammer to knock the rest of the door off the hinges. Louise was soaked and shaking as Robin helped her up to the second floor and safety.

The interior of Louise Murphy's condo

But the drama wasn’t over.

Louise’s neighbor, 77-year-old Barbara Coleman, pleaded for help from inside her condo unit. A stroke left her partially disabled and unable to escape on her own.

Dan again tried to knock the hinges off the door but couldn’t get the bottom one off, Robin shouted for Barbara to push a chair to the window and was able to fit her head and shoulders through the opening.

Dan and Robin each pulled on a shoulder and got her out.

Barbara waded through the waters with Robin to the steps that led to the second floor.

The strong likelihood is that without Dan’s and Robin's help, both women would have drowned. The water reached 55 inches high in both units.

The two women were able to stay in a vacant condo unit on the second floor.

Barbara attends First United Methodist Church of Naples, where Rev. Nancy Mayeux is the Pastor. Barbara lives about ten blocks from the church campus, and as Rev. Mayeux was driving in the neighborhood to assess the situation after the storm passed, she saw what looked like Barbara’s car.

“There was Barbara standing next to her car,” she said. “So we stopped to check on her, and she just melted in our arms. She was even offering us food from her freezer because she had no power, and it was going to spoil.”

That’s how Rev. Mayeux learned about the rescue, and as the story spread, so did the offers of help from church members and strangers.

Boy Scouts from Troop 165  came on Sunday and cleaned out both ladies’ outside storage closets.

After church, people brought them food and supplies. Leaders in the Florida Conference jumped to help. Volunteer Coordinator Molly McEntire and Disaster Recovery Coordinator Trish Warren arranged for an Early Response Team from Jupiter to come and clean out their muck-caked condos.

“Everybody jumped in to help these two ladies,” Rev. Mayeux said.

Remember the 9-1-1 operator Dan reached?

“She came out the next day to check on the ladies,” Dan said. “She even gave me her cell number and said to call if I needed anything. She offered to bring me food. The Naples police were great, too. Everybody just pulled together.”

And Barbara?

Louise Murphy, Dan Mulkern, and Barbara Coleman

“Barbara had this incredible, positive attitude. She just kept saying, ‘It’s going to be OK.’ She did go to church on Sunday, too,” Rev. Mayeux said.

Oh yeah, the church.

“I fully expected the church to be underwater because we’re two blocks from the beach,” Rev. Mayeux said. “But when I finally could get to it, it was fine. For some reason, we were just up high enough. We didn’t have a drop of water in the church.

“And we had just finished replacing our roof last week. It had been leaking like a sieve after Hurricane Irma went through here (in 2017). And now is there; we’re open and ready to help people. That was definitely a God moment.”

Barbara is headed to Nebraska to stay with her daughter but hopes to return to Naples. Louise is relocating to Maryland to live with family members.

What about Dan?

After all, this was his first experience with a hurricane.

"And," he said, "I hope it's my last one."

Joe Henderson is News Content Editor for

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