As news headlines are inundated with the tragic toll that Hurricane Florence took on the residents, both human and animal, of North and South Carolina, there are some photos emerging that are a symbol of hope. This photo of a waterlogged man with a tiny kitten clinging to his shoulders is one of those photos.
The photo is powerful and evocative, the expressions of both man and feline one of exhaustion in the face of disaster. It quickly went viral when reporter Andrew Carter shared it on Twitter. To some, Survivor and his caretaker, Robert, would become the face of Hurricane Florence.
Meet Robert Simmons. Was stuck in his house since last night, when floodwaters began to rise in New Bern. A boat came and rescued him just now. He was sad to leave his father but left with his kitten hugging his neck. Cat’s name: Survivor, Simmons said. #HurricaneFlorence2018 pic.twitter.com/vRR3lANDJe— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) September 14, 2018
The original tweet read, "Meet Robert Simmons. Was stuck in his house since last night, when floodwaters began to rise in New Bern. A boat came and rescued him just now. He was sad to leave his father but left with his kitten hugging his neck. Cat's name: Survivor, Simmons said."
In times of emergency and disaster, it’s unfortunate that many pets are often left behind. Whether it is due to hurricane shelters lacking support for pets or otherwise, the headlines have been filled with stories of animals left behind to weather the storms alone.
But for Robert, leaving Survivor behind was not an option. Simmons had been caring for Survivor and his mother, a feral cat. During their escape, Survivor clung to Simmon’s shoulders, even seeking warmth and refuge inside the hood of his raincoat at one point. The reporter who took the photo asked him about his connection to the young kitten. "I feed him . . . I'm an animal lover," he replied with a smile.
Reporter Andrew followed up with Simmons and Survivor, working on repairing the storm damage to the home they were forced to evacuate. Happily, both Simmons and Survivor made it home and are still together.
Not ever other pet has been as fortunate as tiny Survivor. In the wake of the slow-moving storm, which brought chaotic floods, animal shelters across the two states are overrun with lost pets.
According to NPR, as the Florence recovery effort continues, volunteers from across the South are helping shelters to care for the dogs and cats separated from their owners. The goal is to reunite as many pets and people as possible.
Some shelters are filled to the brim with hundreds of lost pets, struggling with a lack of power – and lack of space. Shelters across the affected areas are looking for help, whether that be in the form of donations of food, supplies, or volunteers to help care for these animals in need. If you want to help, find a list of shelters in need here.