‘Iconic’: Photo of man and his kitten evacuating Florence leaves people ‘in tears’

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News & Observer reporter Andrew Carter and photographer Travis Long had been on two rescue boat missions Friday in the floodwaters of New Bern, N.C., as Hurricane Florence, weakened to a tropical storm, continued to drench the state and strand people in their homes.

After the second evacuation mission, they were completely soaked.

“I was ready to move on to something else,” Carter said, “but Travis recommended we hang in there and follow one last group out in a boat, and that led us to the story.”

Carter captured a photo of Robert Simmons Jr. and his kitten, “Survivor” with his iPhone 7, he said.

Reaction to the photo was immediate:

Carter originally posted the photo on Twitter Friday. As of Saturday morning, that tweet had been favorited more than 4,700 times, retweeted more than 1,600 times and had more than 130 comments.

Carter said Saturday he was “touched” that the photo resonated with so many.

“That means a lot to me, that people have gained a little more appreciation for what these hurricane victims are going through,” he said. “That was just a small moment, but to me, the anguish and concern on Simmons’ face told a story that’s representative of what many are experiencing amid the hurricane.”

In evacuating their flood-choked neighborhood, Simmons and Survivor were both separated from their parents — the kitten from his mother, a “wild cat,” Simmons told Carter, and Simmons from his father, who “wanted to wait it out.”

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“I didn’t want him to wait it out,” Simmons told Carter. “Yeah. Didn’t want him to wait it out. Man, it’s bad.”