Photo of Florence volunteer from Indiana rescuing 7-year-old girl gets national attention

NEW BERN, N.C. - Dozens of Hoosiers made the trip to North and South Carolina to help families during the aftermath of Tropical Storm Florence. Twenty members of the Civilian Crisis Response Team were deployed on Wednesday and arrived in Stantonsburg, North Carolina on Thursday.

One of them was Amber Hersel, a mom of two kids who lives near Evansville, Indiana. Hersel had no idea that she would become the face of the storm, after a Getty photographer captured a moving photo of her carrying a 7-year-old girl to safety.

Neighborhood streets turned into rivers as more than 20 inches of rain dumped on parts of North Carolina. Florence caused major flooding, forcing some families to be rescued from their homes by boat.

Hersel said a local fire department asked for their help so they quickly drove to New Bern, North Carolina early Friday morning.

"There were several cars that were under water that we had to boat around," she said.

She admitted to was terrified to make the trip to the east coast. This was her first hurricane. "It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but I also knew there was a good chance we could get into some pretty dangerous things ourselves."

On their first water rescue, she helped carry the girl away from the danger. She is the same age as Hersel's daughter. The picture has become the lead image in stories from news outlets across the country.

"The rain was pelting really hard. It was painful so I picked her up and said, 'Look at me so it doesn’t hit you,'" Hersel said. "We started talking about her pet and her family and distracted her a little bit when they went and got her parents."

The Civilian Crisis Response team was formed in August 2015 in Nineveh, Indiana. Since then, it has grown to more than 1,000 members in nine states. The group has completed more than 60 water rescues so far in North Carolina. Hersel said she's thrilled the photo is helping give her group the recognition it deserves.

Red Cross also sent dozens of volunteers from Indiana to prepare evacuation shelters. Some said they could stay in North Carolina for three weeks.

"We talked to a lot of loved ones and they said they have never seen it this bad so that’s why they didn’t leave," said Judy Brown, a volunteer helping evacuees with her husband.

Midwest Food Bank in Indianapolis is also shipping truck loads of food to the East Coast. They believe they will fill up roughly 20 semis during its response to Florence. They will be collecting more donations on Monday.

In 2017, they sent out 132,000 boxes of food to Hurricane relief efforts in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico. Each box can supply enough food for a family of four for a week.

“We are going to send about 720 of those on each semi that’s going out,” Whitaker said of relief efforts for Florence. “Currently we have five ready.”

Midwest Food Bank is looking for your help, and needs specific items.

  • Canned tuna or chicken
  • 16 oz. jars peanut butter (plastic jar)
  • 16 oz. canned fruit
  • Pasta sauce (canned or plastic jar)
  • Ramen noodles
  • Canned soup
  • Meals (hamburger helper, canned pasta, Rice-a-Roni)
  • Paper Towels

Indiana Task Force 1 has also been incredibly busy performing heroic rescues down in North Carolina as Florence continues to pound the coast.

Eighty-six team members make up Indiana Task Force 1. They rescued more than 100 people on Saturday night from dangerous flood waters in New Hanover County, North Carolina.