"When the waters rose, so did the people." That could be the motto of a movement of citizen activists, "a flotilla of volunteers" that first came together during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 in Louisiana and since then have rescued more than 15,000 people during hurricanes, floods, and other disasters. Named the "Cajun Navy," they have supplemented the government's emergency teams, sometimes being the only direct response in an area.

Cajun Navy leader Jon Bridgers

This 84-minute documentary introduces us to members of the Cajun Navy as they set out to respond to Hurricane Florence in September 2018. In trucks and cars pulling their boats, they are going to North Carolina to be of service during the seven days after the storm when many people were stranded in their homes due to flooding. Many of these volunteers come from as far away as Louisiana, absorbing all their expenses themselves.

We see them navigating dangerous flood waters (where a sunken tree could suddenly jump up in front of their vehicle) to bring people to safety. One of them tries unsuccessfully to convince an elderly woman to leave with him; when she refuses, he goes and gets her needed supplies. Other teams rescue a dog, some llamas, and some horses. We learn these same people helped in Houston during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Allen Lenard with a woman who refused to leave

What's inspiring about the Cajun Navy is not what they do but why they do it. "You can't stand by and watch people suffer," says one man. "You have to act." Another adds: "This will make you have more compassion than you have ever had in your life." Describing the volunteers during Karina, another says, "These guys never met each other. They just knew they had to go help." Allen Lenard, an oilfield worker, farmer, and Cajun Navy volunteer, sums it up: "This country was built by people of all economic backgrounds, race, education, banding together for the good of their neighbor. I hope we haven't forgotten that that is the true essence of the American dream."