The Texas deputy shown in a heartwarming photo carrying two children, one in each arm, out of a Houston-area home surrounded by deep floodwaters, says, “It was just me doing my job, helping out."
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This is the "job that I love doing," Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Rick Johnson told ABC News of the post-hurricane photo, which quickly went viral. "I love helping people."
The photo of Johnson and the little boy and little girl whom he rescued, which the Harris County Sheriff's Office tweeted Sunday, quickly made the rounds on social media, showing a personal side to the job so many Texas officers are doing day in and day out during the historic and catastrophic flooding left behind by Hurricane Harvey, which has since been downgraded to a tropical storm.
"The neighborhood [at the scene of that photo] had flooded pretty badly,” Johnson said. “I was walking from house to house in the neighborhood to make sure everyone made it out OK that wanted to get out; make sure nobody was left behind that was hurt or anything.”
When he arrived at the home of these two children and their mother and father, the mother came out and said she needed help, Johnson said.
The mother was gathering belongings, Johnson said, so he told her, "'Don't worry about the kids, I'll grab the kids.' ... She was fine with that."
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As Johnson walked out of the house with the children, he said, wading through the waters toward his waiting high-water rescue truck, he joked with the kids, talking about swimming and tubing, saying if they had a tube they could probably play in the water.
"The young man in the photo, he said something to the effect of, 'It's cold,' Johnson said. "I put them on the truck ... went back, got the mother ... went back, got the father," he said.
Johnson then rescued their dog, too.
After the family was safe on the truck, Johnson said, he and his co-workers went through the neighborhood rescuing other families.
Then the deputies took all those neighbors to a gas station where buses were evacuating residents.
"They got off the truck, I helped them get down, they got on the bus. That was the last time I saw them," Johnson said of that family.
"This particular picture that you see, it wasn't that we spent a great amount of time together, it was just a photo captured while I was doing my job," he added.
"I don't want to say it was just another rescue because each one is different. It's a big moment for each family," he said. "That picture was taken in the process of me going from house to house. I was doing this with every house and every individual for the most part."
Since Harvey tore through the Houston area this weekend -- causing deaths, forcing evacuations, creating floods and wiping out homes -- Johnson has been working 12- to 14-hour shifts conducting flood rescues in deep bodies of water, he said.
Johnson, who has been with the sheriff's department since 2011, described this week as "work, little sleep, work, little sleep … rinse repeat."
"Go out there help as many as you can, get them to safety, wish them well on their journeys, back out there again. From sun up to sundown," he said.
As for his own family, Johnson said they did not need to evacuate because the water has not flooded his home.
Johnson, who said he "never imagined" the image would go viral, says his entire hard-working district should get the acknowledgment he's getting.
"I'm getting the publicity from this photo but the guys that work with me [at Harris County Sheriff's Office district 4], they work extra hard," he said.