Meet the lesbian hero cop rewarded for her bravery during Hurricane Harvey
A lesbian police officer who “lost everything” in Hurricane Harvey while she was protecting the people of Houston has been saved from homelessness by the LGBT community.
Toni Mascione left her wife Christina and their three children – nine-year-old Isabella Michelle and five-year-old twins Gabrielle Alexander and Ayden Ronin – to protect citizens.
The officer, who is also head of security at local LGBT nightclub Rich’s, explained that for those few days, her family had to drop down her list of priorities.
“We truly cannot think about, even for a split second, our own lives and the devastation we may be coming home to, because in order to make it through the mission, the mission must come first,” Toni told OutSmart Magazine.
“As an officer, the mission is always citizens you don’t even know. Families of police officers [also need to] put themselves last every time, because that’s part of it.”
She got the call, packed a bag of clothes, and took the one object she could not imagine losing in the hurricane: a wedding ring which was passed down from her mother-in-law.
“This ring is extremely dear to my wife’s heart, which makes it intensely dear to mine because of all the love and hard work my late father-in-law poured into its purchase at a time when he had nothing,” she said.
“The selflessness and unconditional love that he passed down to my wife is something that cannot be replaced.”
She also grabbed the couple’s guns and moved her family from the flat they were renting to stay with friends.
The hurricane killed 84 and left tens of thousands displaced, destroying homes and businesses along its destructive path, and Toni was on the front lines, ensuring as many people as possible were safe.
When she returned home, she insisted on going in alone, so that she could prepare her wife and kids for what they were about to see.
Then she saw the devastation – and broke down.
“I don’t think I had truly prepared myself for what I saw,” she said.
“As an officer, you experience tragedy and pain and traumatic events daily. You are trained to numb, compartmentalize, and push through, because that’s your job.
“You have to be the one to hold it together for everyone else.”
This was too personal, though. It hit home.
“I think seeing my home and all my children’s toys and clothes – everything Christina and I had worked so hard for – destroyed, combined with everything I had seen over the last few days while on duty, I think that just broke me.
“I cried and cried and cried.”
The couple was able to salvage a few clothes, but everything else which hadn’t been packed for those few days was destroyed.
But the most painful loss for Toni was a collection which could not be replaced.
“I had saved every single letter and card Christina had ever written to me,” she said.
“They were in my nightstand by our bed. They all were ruined in the flood. That was heartbreaking for me.
“Christina’s words, and the way she expresses her love, is one of the most beautiful things to me. I had saved everything, even down to little notes written on napkins.”
Thankfully, their kids were understanding, and just relieved that everyone had made it through the hurricane.
“Isabella expressed being happy we were all together, and that I made it through the storm,” Toni said.
“Ayden said he was happy with a new home, but wanted to go back to our flooded home because he liked it.
“And Gabriel – he is my little police officer. He said he wanted to go fight the weather monster with me.”
And now, Toni said she and her family felt extraordinarily lucky, having received an overwhelming response from friends and strangers alike.
“We have been blown away by support from the community,” she said.
Her older sister Lauren set up a GoFundMe page, and the money poured in.
Though still short of the page’s $10,000 goal, the $5,000 raised so far has been enough for Toni and her family to rent a new home.
“I don’t think there is a word to even begin to express how truly grateful we are,” Toni wrote on the page.
Julie Mabry, who owns the local Pearl Bar, an LGBT establishment, put on a benefit for the Masciones which saw donations of clothes and household items pour in.
And Gary Wood, a board member for the Montrose Centre – which is leading LGBT relief efforts in the area – assigned a person to help the family “to restart and rebuild” their lives.
Toni said “the fact that [the LGBTQ community has] kept hope in my heart and the hearts of my family is invaluable.”
Christina added: “This could have been an absolutely hopeless and devastating situation, with no end in sight.
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“But with the immense amount of love and support extended to us, there have truly been moments that I have temporarily forgotten the magnitude of the loss that we are working through.
“Together we make a whole. Together we make ‘HoUSton.’”
Toni concluded: “Here is what I can say about Harvey, and about losing everything.
“The last five years has been very divided and trying for our nation. It’s been a constant war, in a way I had never seen in my career.
“The division that existed between society and law enforcement was devastating to many of us officers. Harvey gave us a moment – a moment where none of that mattered.”
Ruby Rose donated $10,000 to a local LGBT centre after Hurricane Harvey.
Miley Cyrus’s charity Happy Hippy gave $500,000 to tackling the aftermath of the natural disaster.