As floodwaters steadily rose in his own neighborhood three weeks ago, Baton Rouge Police Sgt. Byron Daniels worked long hours riding shotgun on a high-water truck. Away from his displaced family, he focused on others in need, helping to lead hundreds through stinking water to dry land, reports The Advocate.
"We still have officers who were affected to the point they're worse off than I was," Daniels said. "And I lost everything."
Hundreds of Baton Rouge, LA, first responders — police officers, sheriff's deputies, firefighters, and soldiers — worked long hours during the days and weeks after the floodwaters began to rise around capital region three weeks ago, even as their own homes sank under the deluge and their families sought shelter.
About 170 Baton Rouge police officers — a quarter of the force — lost homes in the flood. At the Baton Rouge Fire Department, that tally is 190, roughly a third of firefighters. About that proportion of state troopers in the capital region lost homes as well, said a spokesman for the Louisiana State Police, which opened its training facilities to house the families of 425 displaced first responders.
In hard-hit communities in Livingston and Ascension parishes, some agencies fared even worse. The homes of about 40% of Denham Springs police officers flooded, said interim Chief Shannon Womack.
Nearly all of the hundreds of first responders who lost their homes continued reporting for duty, in some cases working for days without rest.
"If I got back to see my family, that's great. If it didn't work out that way, well, that's the job I was sworn to do," said Jerry Denton, a Denham Springs city marshal who drove his family to a relative's home in Baton Rouge before heading back for several days of boat rescues and door-to-door checks in his devastated community. "It's literally through hell or high water, and that's what we went through."
"Seeing how well the community and police can work together, it re-energized my belief that we can do this. We really got to see the best in people," said Daniels. "When you truly believe in being there for the community, there's no question."