Before Monday morning, Braden and Kimberlie Dando had never heard of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Today, they say they owe their lives to the FWC officers who have been deployed to the Houston area to help rescue flood victims.
“If they didn’t show up I don’t what we would have done because we did not have a way to get out. I just want to thank them for what they did,” Braden, 25, said during a telephone interview from his mother-in-law’s house in Highlands, Texas.
The Dandos say their home in Dayton is gone, covered by the floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey that have devastated so many homes and lives in the Houston area.
“At first it was just another storm in Texas. It was just another rainstorm,” Kimberlie, 26, recalled. “Where we live we didn’t get the winds and the rapid rainfall like everyone else did. So, from my point of view, while everybody on social media is freaking out, I’m sitting here saying come on guys this is just another rainstorm. We’re Texans. We’re prepared for this. We can get through this.”
But that strong Texan-pride turned to concern when water started coming through the walls of their first story apartment.
The Dandos two boys–Paxton, 3, who is autistic, and Nixon, 15 months old–were also inside the apartment. Their parents concern grew as the flood waters began to cover Nixon’s crib.
“Slowly, but surely, the water on our land started to rise and before we knew it was knee-deep and then it got into our home and by time we had to evacuate it was chest-deep,” said Kimberlie.
She called her mother looking for help. Her mother’s friend had a truck. The friend would drive to Dayton to try to help.
But the water kept rising. Knowing help was on the way the Dandos decided to leave the apartment. Their boys were terrified.
“We had to swim with our kids,” Kimberlie recalled. “We literally had to drag our 3-year-old, while he was screaming, out of the house.”
The water was cold and the rain, driven by the strong winds, felt like needles hitting the skin.
“I’m thinking in my head, I can’t make it. My kids lives depend on me and I can’t move my legs,” said Kimberlie.
By time the the mother’s friend arrived in her truck, the road to the house was impassable. Fortunately, the friend saw a group of men, and they had boats.
It just so happens those men were officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and they were in Texas to rescue flood victims.
She told the officers that a family needed help. The FWC officers sprang into action.
Kimberlie and Braden saw the FWC boats coming towards them.
“I was getting closer and closer. They were getting closer and closer,” she said.
When she thought she could not go any farther she heard a voice say “give me the baby.”
She looked up and saw an FWC officer reaching down to her.
“I don’t even know how to describe the feeling,” Kimberlie said, her voice breaking with emotion. “You go from absolutely terrified not knowing if your child is going to be swept away by floodwaters, to feeling just instantly safe like everything is going to be finally okay.”
After rescuing the family, the officers went back to the apartment to save the family’s dogs.
“Seeing those officers is the only thing that kept me going,” Kimberlie said.
She remembers one of the officers trying to comfort her.
“I was shaking so hard that he put his hand on my shoulder and he just gripped my shoulder as tight as he could, just as an unspoken ‘I’m here’ type of thing.”
Kimberlie and Braden say they will forever be indebted to the FWC officers who the Dandos credit with saving their lives. While they don’t know their names, they will never forget their faces.
The officers are among 145 FWC staff members who were deployed to Texas earlier week by Gov. Rick Scott to help rescue flood victims.
“I would put my life on the line to save those men,” Kimberlie said. ”The only thing I know how to say is my kids are alive because of you. Thank you.”
My son-in-law is with the FWC. Theyndo good deeds all the time.🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼👍👍👍👍
GET R DONE FWC
GET R DONE FWC
So proud of all the men & women in the FWC
I have worked for FWC for 11 years. It’s not just a job, it is a family. Great job!! Prayers to everyone involved.
So very proud to have been a part of this wonderful agency. These men and women put their everything into their respective jobs, I’m not the least bit surprised at the actions of the officers, they are truly heros. I’m grateful for them. God Bless the FWC, Stay Safe Out There!
This is how it’s supposed to be. Humans helping humans. The men and women of the FWC are very special human’s indeed. Sending our FWC to Texas is the only thing Rick Scott’s ever done that I’ve agreed with(!)
Let’s figure out a way to get the Dandos family to Monroe County for a vacation sometime in the near future. Goodness knows they’ll need it!!!!
Great idea! I’ll chip in for it!❤️
Wendy, this is a positive post about how our State of Florida is wonderfully assisting in the Hurricane Harvey rescue effort in Texas and you have made it a political statement against our Governor. Since you have by stating that’s the only thing about which you’ve agreed with our Governor, then you’re opposed to how our Governor has led in lower taxes (currently more than 80% of FL businesses don’t pay the state business tax) and fees (my vehicle registration fee halved a couple of years ago), less regulations, less debt (paid off $7.6B from the $28.2B at start of Gov Scott’s tenure , smaller government, more government efficiency, more private jobs (almost 1.5M added from start of Gov Scott’s tenure), increased tourism, etc. http://www.flgov.com/turnaround
Gov.Rick Scott & our Florida Fish & Wildlife officers have done a terrific job! When we lived in MD, it was the Florida Power & Light people who showed up to fix our lines after 11 days without power. G-d bless them.
I worked for FWC for many Years and I am so proud of all the men in FWC.
As the son of a former FWC officer, I understand What a great group of people they are. Always willing to help. Thanks to the FWC.
Gods endurance be with you all.
I’m so thankful for the FWC and many others who have done such awesome work to save the lives of so many people during this time. So many who like this lady thought it was “just another storm”. I pray God’s blessings on them as they begin to put their lives back together again.
My son is FWC and in Houston now.. unbelievably proud of him and the others that are there making a difference. I firmly believe that this is what we as Americans are really about!
My nephew is FWC and in Houston now.. so proud of him and all of the wonderful people that have come together to help in any way possible !! James be safe love ❤️ you !!!!!
Proud of you people of FWC. Be safe! You represent the good side of America. I thank you!
So proud of all the heroes helping in the hurricane and the aftermath. Prayers for everyone s safety.
They can call Florida “Floriduh” all they want. We have the very best of the very best. God Bless all of our men and women at FWC. and thin blue line.
Thanks to the FWC folks and prayers for their safety!
My sister’s grandson is a FWC offficer who is in Texas assisting with rescues of people and livestock. I am so proud of him and all of the rescue workers, those within an agency, and those who are volunteering their energy and resources.
My cousin is with FWC in Texas now. My family and I pray daily for him, the other offices and all of the victims. God bless you all.
My son is a FWC officer who is now in Texas rescuing the people. He is a very special person who makes a difference in the lives of others. God bless all of the people in the path of Harvey.
God bless our Florida wildlife officers they risk their lives to make a difference
Prayers for all our FWC in Houston helping the victims of Hurricane Harvey. A really good friend who saved my life 7 short months ago works for them and is in Houston now. Prayers for safe return. Proud of you sir.
FWC-Thank you!! Prayers for all the people in the path of the terrible hurricane!
Back in the mid-70’s I was a twin engined airplane pilot with the Florida Marine Patrol, which later merged with FWC. What a great organization of fine, professional, and dedicated officers. They do a great ( and mostly unnoticed ) job here in Florida. They have saved many a life. Heros All!
My nephew is a fwc officer and so proud of him and all his team for helping out in the rescue may God bless each of them
Our florida wild life people are great you all,are heros.
A very heartwarming story. My prayers are with the FWC .
We are the Dando’s. I am Kimberlie the wife and mother listed in this article, it just recently resurfaced and was sent to me during the recent storm that hit. Still to this day i keep the members of the FWC in my nightly prayers. The love for a fellow human being they showed will always inspire me to do better with each day. Life since the hurricane has been rough to say the least. But we are ALIVE therefor we are BLESSED! All of your kind words here are so heart warming and so kind. Thank you so much for taking the time to hear our story about the worst day of our life. To the men and the families of the men that saved us, we are forever in your debt and we will forever remember your bravery, and your kindness.