COTHRAN: I can remember hearing this woman screaming, just bloody murder, for help and we thought actually she was the one with the baby, so we got over there to a driveway that was not under, I mean, it kinda sat up so it wasn’t in the water. But the water was now moving through the streets and the houses and stuff, pretty swiftly.
And I remember everybody just kind of standing there, so I just said, “Give me a life jacket.” And they tried to tie a garden hose to me and—
GIBBONS: Oh. [laughing]
COTHRAN: And I said, “You’re not tying a garden hose to me and drowning me in this water.” But, you know, as I looked through the streets, my first thought was “Well, I can’t see anything behind the houses, so I know worst case scenario I’m just going to hit a house, you know, it sweeps me away.
And remember, I had this plan in my head that I’m just going to hit the current and float down the river to her fence, which will stop me and I’ll just climb in.
And I remember jumping in and instantly realizing that plan wasn’t going to work and how bad it was and it actually swept me over to a tree. It’s funny, you know, one of the things I remember most is hearing the sound of my buddy jumping in behind me. You know, he didn’t say anything, he just did it and which is awesome. So I grabbed him, we held onto a tree for a second and came up with this grand plan. Now we’re going to have to wade across the current, which was moving pretty good. But we made it across. And another guy went with us and I still to this day don’t know his name.
And we got through her fence and I took a, I remember taking a log and breaking out her back glass door, broke it out, and went inside and she, hysterical at this point. And she kept saying, “I got to take my dogs. I got to take my dogs with me.” I said, “Ma’am, I can’t take your dogs. I can get you.” And at this point, we realized that she’s not the one with the baby. And now we hear on down through the backyards there was another lady screaming for help, so my buddy Joe and the other guy left me with her. I said, “Y’all just go ahead and try to get her and I’ll stay with this one.”
Now I just explained to her, I said, “I can’t carry you and three dogs out of here, it’s just not going to be possible.” So she’s freaking out and I come to find out her husband at the time was fighting in Iraq and he was gone. And I was trying to convince her, I said, “Look, you know, your husband’s away. He would want you out of here. We’re just going to have to leave the dogs. If we can come back to get them, I promise you we’ll come back. So I took my life jacket off and I put it on her. Finally got her outside and I remember just trying to calm her down, saying “Look, we’re probably going to get swept away a little bit, we’re probably going to hit that house right down there. Then we just walk out, it’s no problem after that.” And we did, we got swept away, hit the house, and then walked out.
My buddies had gotten the lady out of the other house. So at this point we just decide to jump back in the water and just go house to house because we didn’t want to miss anybody. So at this point there’s probably four streets of houses that are underwater. And so we just, me and my buddy Joe jump in, and this other guy and I think his name was Jamie, we just start knocking on doors and I remember my best friend saying, “You got to slow down, you got to slow down.” Because there was glass and stuff and I didn’t realize it, when he had jumped in, his shoes came off.
GIBBONS: Oh no.
COTHRAN: And probably one of my most memorable moments was when we knocked on the doors and if we could open them, we’d open them, “Holler for help, holler—.” We opened this door to this house and this pair of Keds comes floating out, just like right to him. And he was like, “Oh, thank God!” So he puts on these shoes that barely fit him and we just continue to swim. And we get, at this point, my other buddies are smart enough to run back and grab Joe Cox’s boat. He’s got a ski boat.
GIBBONS: Oh, wonderful.
COTHRAN: And they hop in the boat, get it pulled back in the water and as we’re going down door to door, they go down the end of the street where it’s deepest and actually get the lady with the baby out, so it was good that we had the boat for that, because they were in a spot that was terrible.
And I remember ending up at the corner house at the very back and got a lady out of a house and got the boat to us. So we all jumped in, we took her boats, and her, she was not going to leave without her three cats. So we got her cats, we got her dog. No, I’m sorry, she didn’t have a dog. So we hop back in, we go back up, we get everybody out and we knocked on every door. We hop back in the boat and went back to the first lady’s house and we got her dogs and her American flag off her porch, because she said she never goes anywhere without her flag, so we were already there and so we grabbed it. And it’s probably about four feet of water at her place, so we got out of there.