HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) — “When your father calls you and tells you he loves you and goodbye, and he’s drowning — there’s nothing like it.”

Christa Freeman received a call no one wants to receive. Her father and stepmother, both in their 70s, live just three miles inland from the Gulf Coast in a mobile home.

“I begged them to leave, pleaded with them, but she’s almost completely disabled, and he’s partially disabled,” Freeman said. “The task of him trying to get her out of the house and get the oxygen out of the house and the dog, it’s too much for him, and by the time the warning came across, he didn’t know what to do.”

That evening, water started flowing into Freeman’s parents’ home.

“The next phone call I got was when the water was at his ankles, and then was at his knees, and then at his waist. Then at his chest, he said goodbye,” recalled Freeman. “When it was neck deep, I lost communication.”

Being here in Buffalo, she felt helpless. Freeman and her sons spent 10 hours on the internet trying to message rescue crews and looking for people to help. Finally, they got through to a dispatcher named Lauren, with Patriot Emergency Response Team.

“Lauren spent every half hour on the phone with me, all night long, until they were cleared by the local government to go search,” said Freeman. “They’re responsible for my parents being alive. They found them and they were hypothermic, and in shock, and they’re both on oxygen, and they hadn’t had any in 17 hours.”

Patriot Emergency Response Team is a non-profit organization, made up of former military, police, firefighters and medical personnel, with other volunteers, as well.

“We’re usually the first ones in and also the last ones out as we deploy our teams through all five ‘R’s: Rescue, Recovery, Relief, Resources and Rebuild,” said Lauren Trahan of P.E.R.T. “Our team of 20 that are currently deployed are either in their home state and/or from the Southern region, and we wanted to go get involved, as we know what it feels like. I’m from Louisiana.”

Their team, along with 999 Rescue, responded once it was safe to, knocked door-to-door, and rescued people that were in their neighborhood.

After being rescued, Freeman’s stepmom was sent to a hospital in Port St. Lucy, roughly three hours away, and is being treated for pneumonia.

Her father, a two times cancer survivor, was first sent to a shelter, and then after Christa posted his story on Facebook, a retired military nurse, drove all the way down from Sarasota to bring him to the hospital to receive care.

Freeman says both are doing well as they are still in the hospital, however, when they are both well, she will have them move up here to Buffalo to stay with her as she finds them a place in Western New York.

But for now, she is thankful for the ones who stepped up to help save them and encourages everyone who can help rescue teams down helping pick up the pieces from Hurricane Ian, to do so.

“In a time of crisis, regardless of whether it’s in our own state or just something we can do to make a difference, this city just always steps up,” said Freeman. “They’re family now, they’re family.”

For more information regarding P.E.R.T. head to their website here.

To help clean-up and rescue efforts by the Red Cross, and to donate, visit their website here.

Hope Winter is a reporter and multimedia journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.