ST. PETERSBURG — Tara Davidson immediately picked up her phone when it rang on Tuesday night, the string of unfamiliar numbers signaling that this call was different.
It was Orian Tzadik, husband of her close friend Katharine Tzadik, who had moved down from St. Petersburg to Puerto Rico with their two children about a year ago. Davidson had not heard from them for days after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, and connecting them was hard.
"'All right, get past the emotions,'" he told Davidson quickly. He was on a satellite phone and only had a few minutes, she recalled. He needed her help in trying to get his family back to the mainland. Their food and water supply was running out.
Davidson, who had been worried about the St. Petersburg family, tried to plan how to go about getting the family of four — plus Poe, their Labrador — back to safety.
But it took a social media campaign from friends, family and a group of local mothers to catch the eye of Mayor Rick Kriseman, who reached out to a seaplane company to help the family get off the island. The residents of Puerto Rico are facing a humanitarian crisis after Hurricane Maria decimated the Caribbean island.
Davidson, along with friends of Katharine Tzadik, reached out to local media outlets. After WFLA-Ch. 8 reported on the family's situation, and pleas from Orian Tzadik's mother for help, Kriseman called the CEO of Tropic Ocean Airways, who he says didn't hesitate to offer free help for the family.
By Friday morning, they boarded a plane from Rincon, Puerto Rico — where they lived for the past year — to stay the night at St. Croix before flying to Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday. Kriseman, in his office with friends of the Tzadiks, spoke to Orian on a conference call as they got ready to board.
"We're doing great," Orian said. "We're just ready, hopefully, to come back and be able to help out everybody who's still here."
The family's situation became dire on Monday after realizing food and water wouldn't last much longer, friends say. That was when the St. Pete group started making calls to make the public aware.
Once the family members land, it is uncertain if they will stop by St. Pete, Davidson said. But she hopes they do, even if it's for a day.
The group met at Bayfront Baby Place about four years ago, when they became mothers and attended a group meeting hosted by the hospital. Katharine and Orian had just moved from Miami, Davidson said.
Davidson — whose daughter, Maya, was born around the same time her daughter Jade was born — spoke to Katharine on Thursday night.
"She sounded tired, but she sounded good," Davidson said.
Leslie Eckhouse, a friend of Katharine's, said the family is always able to make the best of any situation.
"We've had so many different things happen in our group of friends in the past four years, and she's always been there," she said.
When they see their friend, they plan on telling her how she was missed.
"We'll also tell her to set her fantasy football lineup," Eckhouse said, "because we're on a fantasy football league, and we don't play."
Contact Melissa Gomez at [email protected] Follow @melissagomez004.