84-year-old Stranded After Hurricane Ian Gets Help – From a Most Unexpected Source
An 84-year-old Floridian named Shirley Affolter was rescued during Hurricane Ian after her daughter used social media to alert her community.
When you need help, you call a friend or family member. But what if you lost your cell phone, your landline is down, and your family lives all the way across the country?
Shirley Affolter, age 84, found herself in just such a situation—and the help she needed was urgent. Hurricane Ian was sweeping through southwest Florida and the evacuation vehicle that had passed through her neighborhood earlier had missed her. She couldn’t leave her home on her own because she needs a walker to get around.
She was stranded, with no way to contact the outside world.
A Horrifying Storm and Dire Situation for Shirley Affolter
Hurricane Ian ripped through the area at over 150 miles per hour, killing over 100 people and displacing 40,600 more. The Category 4 Atlantic hurricane ravaged Cuba and the southeast United States. South Carolina and Florida were especially hard hit.
Across the country in Las Vegas, Affolter’s daughter Christine Bomlitz was growing worried. She hadn’t been able to contact her mother on Wednesday, and by Thursday, when the hurricane had passed and the worst was over, she was frantic. Still no contact with her mother.
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She didn’t know if her mother was okay or if she needed help. And being so far away, she didn’t know what she could do.
So, for help, Bomlitz turned to the biggest audience she knew: social media. Bomlitz posted everywhere she could think of: “My mom needs help! Can someone please check on her?”
A Concerned Floridian Steps In
Meanwhile, back in southwest Florida, Cheyenne Prevatt was also hunkering down at home. She had made it through the hurricane, and on Thursday, she went outside and surveyed the damage to her house. Shingles from her roof had flown away, and part of the ceiling had caved in under the weight of a fallen palm tree. Prevatt’s home was destroyed, and she had to evacuate. But she read Bomlitz’s plea and knew what she needed to do: she couldn’t leave the area, she decided, without helping Bomlitz’s mother first.
Prevatt put her own plans to evacuate on hold and made her way through chest-high floodwaters to Affolter’s home on Thursday afternoon. She found the 84-year-old safe and sound, if a little shocked.
Affolter was surprised to see this stranger looking for her. She was even more surprised when Prevatt explained that Affolter’s daughter was looking for her and had put a call out on social media to find her mother. With Prevatt’s help, Affolter called her daughter to let her know she was safe.
The call was short because Affolter was having trouble with her hearing aids, but Bomlitz got the reassurance she was so desperately seeking.
“I’m thankful for this stranger,” Bomlitz said, “a total stranger. People are amazing.”
The Internet Can Foster Community and Save Lives
Now that she knew her mother was safe, Bomlitz turned her attention to the next most pressing issue: she needed someone with a boat to help her mother and others in the neighborhood safely evacuate.
By Thursday evening, her prayers were answered when a paddleboard made its way to Affolter’s home and took her to dry ground.
Prevatt’s selfless act to help out a stranger is testament to the power of community—even when that community is an online one. Acts of kindness and sacrifice can change lives, and inspire folks around you to do the same. The echoes are felt everywhere!