CHICAGO (WLS) -- A former North Chicago police officer swam half a mile to save his mother from drowning in her Florida home during Hurricane Ian.
Johnny Lauder grew up in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood. He and his family moved to Florida about 20 years ago, and settled in Naples. He was riding out the hurricane in his son's home, half a mile away from where his 84-year-old mother lived, when the storm surge rolled in.
"I had my youngest son on the phone with grandma at all times," he said. "And once the water got high on the sliding glass doors that she reported that it was at her belly button, then I knew it was go time."
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Sending picture updates to his family, Lauder navigated the neck-deep waters. On his journey he found a knee board and even a kayak.
"I just can't explain it. I didn't feel alone, and things were put in front of me for a reason," Lauder said.
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After 40 minutes, he made it to his mom, who has an amputated leg. The water in her home was up to her chest.
"If I would've been 20 minutes later, this would be a totally different interview," he said.
After waiting for the water to recede, Lauder wheeled his mother to safety with the help of his son.
His mother Karen is hospitalized, but doing well.
"You feel grateful that we're still here and that she's able to be with us," Lauder said.
Both Lauder and his mother's homes were destroyed in the hurricane. His son's home survived.