During the storm, Michael McDonnell was in his kitchen when there was an explosion. The windows blew out, and water started to rush into the house. He went to his front steps the water level was rising. Red-hot embers showered down. There was a heavy smoke smell, and a red-orange glow coming from his neighbor’s house behind his home. He told his landlords Bruce and Janet to get their son Joey, to gather their important papers, and tell Cindy, the other tenant, to do the same. “… Because we are never coming back,” he told them. He was worried about fire.
The water was rising fast. It was at the top of the steps, nearly chest high on his over 6-foot build. Janet was terrified of water. He carried her, and brought the others next door. This was his childhood home. His neighbors Kate and Jim, the current tenants, purchased the home from the owners who had purchased it from Michael’s parents.
He told Kate, and Jim to gather their papers as another explosion rocked the air and more embers fell around them and down on the house, “As if you shook up a snow-globe,” as Mike described it. The storm-surge was rushing down the street, now nearly seven feet high. The water was moving fast, too fast to swim across the street to safety. Mike had an idea. He searched for rope, but found nothing but a few foot-lengths of yellow twine. He instructed everyone to gather extension cords, chargers, whatever could be found.
A lifelong fisherman, he fastened the scavenged pieces together, using the best knot that he knew. Then, he knotted them again. He tied the ‘rope’ to a tree in front of the house. Even if the ‘rope’ were long enough to reach across the road, he could not swim across to tie it off because the current was too fast. Doors, couches, water boilers were rushing down the street.
His neighbor Dylan saw what was happening. Dylan, a lifeguard and surfer, grabbed his surfboard, and paddled out a ways where the current was not too strong. Michael threw him the ‘rope’ and Dylan tied it to the wrought iron steps.
The water was above Michael’s head, nearly 7 feet high, he would have to hold his breath. He knew the road was raised in the center, and there he would be able to take another breath and keep going. He put Janet on Dylan’s Surfboard and helped carry Bruce, Joey, Cindy, Kate, and Jim to safety.
Michael says, “Joey told me; ‘…you saved my whole family’ and other people tell me, ‘you are a hero Mike’, but I am not a hero… I was just determined and focused.”
Michael looks like a cop or a firefighter, with a stern presence, but is the sales director and celebrity concierge for a company called Chef’s Diet. “It’s never been better to go into work,” he said “…I have heat here, hot water and warm food.”
Now, Michael lives in his blue pickup, the only thing that he has left. “This is my bedroom…” he says as he points to the cab “…and this is my living room,” he points to the front seat. “I am staying here to help my neighbors, because of what Dylan did for me and what my neighbors did for me.” His blue and red eyes well-up with emotion. He bites his lip, “We are here for each other because no one else is.” He walks away down the street, his big thick arms full of turkey sandwiches to pass out to his neighbors.