One week ago, very early on Wednesday morning, Jesse Shaffer, a shrimp trawler, and his son Jesse Shaffer Jr. were taking turns keeping watch on the levee that separates their neighborhood from the Gulf of Mexico as the floodwaters from Hurricane Isaac reached their peak. Shortly after midnight the storm surged over the wall several miles south and sent a deluge into the streets. Residents of Braithwaite Parish scurried to their attics and rooftops, but with the high wind and the pitch black conditions, official rescue crews were many hours away.
The New Orleans Times Picayune reported that Shaffer Sr. and his brother-in-law scooped up some eight people into his 16-foot skiff before dawn, including a six month old baby and a couple floating on a spare tire. Shaffer Jr., meanwhile had been using social media to spread the rescue net further—Shaffer Sr. didn't think cruising around in 80 mph winds and blackout conditions was the safest for his son.
"I put it on Facebook. I said, 'Message me, text message me.' By the end of the day, I had 80 texts... addresses, locations of more individuals who had to be rescued."
Come dawn, Shaffer Jr. was in the skiff alongside his father plucking his neighbors from rooftops, reported Benjamin Alexander-Bloch of The Times-Picayune.
"We was heading south on Highway 39, past this house that was a trailer home and there was five people on there and they were screaming, they were just screaming like crazy."
"They were so relieved to see us. They were spinning around. They were screaming the whole time. By the time we pulled to their roof, they had about that much, that much leeway before the entire house was engulfed with water," he said, holding his hands a few inches apart.
They grabbed three kids younger than six from the roof of that trailer. Ten minutes later they grabbed 10 people nearby—eight of them elderly. Though their own home was submerged in floodwaters up to the attic—just as it had been seven years ago to the day during the aftermath of Katrina—the Schaffers were responsible for saving 120 lives last week.