Story and photos by MaryJane Mudd, Red Cross contributor

Becoming a Red Cross volunteer was the last thing on Margie Carroll’s mind in the early hours of Thursday, September 19, as she clung to her dogs atop a mattress floating on sewage water in her new Winnie, Texas home. Yet a week later, recounting her harrowing rescue and the kindness of volunteers who came to her aid in a time of grief and fear, she was certain this would be a goal she’d pursue.

“My mother, adult brother with autism, and I moved to Texas from Ohio just two months ago,” Margie explained at the Chambers County Red Cross shelter while her tiny rescue terrier, Sadie, sat on her lap.

“We knew the area was prone to floods, but not like this. My mom wanted to be near the beach, and we thought our Winnie home was perfect. She suddenly passed away three weeks ago, and I was headed to her memorial service when it started to rain.”

Margie chose to stay home with her brother, James, due to road conditions. Before long, water started seeping into the garage and came through the doors at such a rapid pace that they couldn’t open the doors and became trapped in their own home.  “I’m a rescue dog volunteer and we have seven {dogs},” Margie recounted. “I grabbed them all and climbed onto the mattress. James couldn’t get up there due to his size, so he stood in that dirty water for four hours and calmed the dogs while we prayed for rescue.”

It was Margie’s personal videos, taken with her phone and posted to Facebook, that alerted her friends to call emergency responders and activate their rescue. James, who experienced cardiac and other medical issues, was taken by ambulance to a local hospital and Margie was air-boated – with her dogs – to a nearby school. From there, she and her dogs were delivered to the Red Cross shelter.

Despite the grief of losing her mother, new home and everything in it compounded by worry over her brother’s health, Margie smiles as she tells her story. “The compassion shown to me by every Red Cross volunteer was like a warm blanket wrapped around my heart. They offered me a place to stay, food to eat and had partners to care for my dogs. A veterinarian even stopped by to check on all the animals housed behind the shelter.” She smiled and cradled Sadie, saying “I got to keep this old girl with me, though. She sleeps with me at night and stays right by my side.”

Margie Carroll barely escaped her flooded home during Imelda. She and Red Cross volunteer David O’Neil are shown here enjoying time with Margie’s beloved rescue dog, Sadie.

Margie has a long road before her as she prepares to depart the shelter, collect her brother, find temporary housing and slowly begin to rebuild their lives. One thing is for certain: Her future will include the Red Cross.

“I’ve always been an animal helper and that won’t stop. But I’ve learned something important this past week, and it’s that I want to be a people helper too,” she said. “I can’t repay all these wonderful people who came to our aid during the darkest of times, but maybe I can pay it forward. Yes, I am going to do that. I’m going to be a Red Cross volunteer.”