Despite the breadth of devastation brought on by Hurricane Harvey in southeast Texas and Louisiana, there have been countless stories of hope, inspiration, and good will to come from the chaos. A photo tweeted by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday showing an officer carrying two young children to safety quickly went viral and has become one of the defining images of hope from the storm relief efforts.
— HCSOTexas (@HCSOTexas) August 27, 2017
The officer has been identified as Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Johnson, and the father of four shared with TIME that he and his colleagues were going door-to-door in Cypress, Texas trying to bring people to safety when the photo was snapped. Johnson, who is known as “Deputy J” within the department, explained that he had offered to take the kids to the waiting boat while their parents gathered “important stuff” like IDs, money, and the family dog.
“I grabbed the kids, and in order to keep the kids focused on happy thoughts given the seriousness of what was going on around us, I told them a couple of light jokes,” he told TIME. “We joked about swimming, and the water being cold.”
One of his fellow officers captured the heartwarming moment, and Johnson said he wasn’t even initially aware the photo had been taken, let alone gone viral. Having served in Iraq and Kuwait, Johnson has been with the Harris County’s Sheriff’s Office since 2011 and remained humble despite all the attention.
“I’ve always liked helping people out,” he said simply.