CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — From the devastation to the people they rescue, Coast Guard members in Clearwater are getting a first-hand look at what people are dealing with post-Hurricane Ian.

Coast Guard members with air station Clearwater rescued 15 people and several pets Thursday.

They flew more than eight hours in windy conditions, treading muddy waters chin to knee deep.

“I’m just trying to smile and be happy and show up to them as a light at the end of their dark day,” Rescue Swimmer Zach Loesch said. “A lot of them are desperate and need help and in despair. Everything they know is gone, and when they’re leaving with us it may be the last time they see their house.”

Crew members say some people had to get their attention with flashlights.

“I took a flashlight to flash it back to let them know I see you,” Aviation Maintenance Technician Savanna Brewer said. “We could see the people who were looking to us for help, some hope.”

Coast Guard members say at times, it got emotional.

“We picked up one family and I remember the last one there was a little girl and she reminded me of my daughter and I thought the hurricane could have came through this area and I could have hoisted her up,” Aviation Maintenance Technician Russell Strang said.

Coast Guard members know some of these families may never see their homes again, and because of that, they look to offer hope.

“All we could say to them was you’re fine, we don’t know what else is going on but you’re fine and we’re going to get you somewhere safe,” Strang said.