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When Memorial Villages police officer Toni Mascione left her home in Katy on Friday, August 25—the eve of Tropical Storm Harvey—she wasn’t sure if or when she’d return. Mascione hadn’t done much in the way of preparation, aside from ensuring that her wife, Christina Fedorchenko Mascione, and their three children—nine-year-old Isabella Michelle and five-year-old twins Gabrielle Alexander and Ayden Ronin—would be safe.
For the next three days, Mascione had little time to dwell on the fate of the couple’s home or belongings. In the thick of the storm, her sole focus would be the people she was there to protect. “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,” Mascione says. “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.”
Toni and Christian are both Houston natives, but they had never faced a storm like Harvey. Toni, a nearly nine-year veteran of the police force, is also the head of security at Rich’s nightclub, as well as a sponsored athlete and model for Relentless Defender Apparel. Christina is a financial-account analyst for Quest Software.
Toni called Christina not long into her shift—before checking in would become next to impossible. Because they knew flooding was possible at the house they were renting, Christina took the children to stay with friends. She recalls making sure she had with her the one item she couldn’t imagine living without—a wedding ring that 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 says. “The selflessness and unconditional love that he passed down to my wife is something that cannot be replaced.”
Chrisina also grabbed something much less sentimental—the couple’s guns. “I was fearful that looters might be a possibility, and because I had to be prepared to protect our children from the apocalypse at any point,” she says.
Early on, Christina says she had an overwhelmingly bad feeling about what was to come. Unfortunately, her gut was all too right—Harvey hit Houston with a vengeance and refused to let up.
It wasn’t until Monday that Toni reunited with her wife and children, forever changed by what she had seen. And then it wasn’t until Tuesday that she could get back to their home, because their neighborhood’s streets were so devastatingly flooded. Toni says she went to the house alone because she didn’t want her wife to be the first to see it. The minute she walked in, she fell apart. “I don’t think I had truly prepared myself for what I saw,” she says. “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.
“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,” she adds. “I cried and cried and cried.”
Their home was destroyed, and Toni and Christina had lost nearly everything. “There were a few clothes that were hanging in each closet that we were able to salvage,” Toni says. “We all lost every pair of shoes we owned, with the exception of what Christina packed for herself and the children. I had the bag I packed for duty for five days and the uniform I was wearing.”
The biggest loss for Toni was an irreplaceable one. “I had saved every single letter and card Christina had ever written to me,” she says. “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.”
Once they had come to terms with their enormous loss, the couple faced another challenge—explaining it to their children. This time, however, the surprise was a pleasant one—a true relief in the face of it all. “Isabella expressed being happy we were all together, and that I made it through the storm,” Toni says. “She understood the risk I was at during the hurricane, and the details of what my job entailed. 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. ”
Remarkably, Toni says she and her family count themselves as incredibly lucky. “We have been blown away by support from the community,” she says.
Toni’s sister in Austin launched a GoFundMe page that raised nearly $4,000—enough for the couple to rent a new home. Julie Mabry, a close friend and owner of Pearl Bar, staged a benefit for the Masciones, collecting donations of clothes and household items. Gary Wood, a board member for the Montrose Center—which is spearheading LGBTQ relief efforts—assigned someone to help with whatever the family needed “to restart and rebuild” their lives. ”
“This could have been an absolutely hopeless and devastating situation, with no end in sight,” Christina says. “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 and Christina are on the road to getting back on their feet. While the physical and monetary help has been incredible, Toni comments that “the fact that [the LGBTQ community has] kept hope in my heart and the hearts of my family is invaluable.
“Here is what I can say about Harvey, and about losing everything,” Toni says. “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.”•
This article appears in the October 2017 edition of OutSmart Magazine.