This Christmas story might bring tears to your eyes. A man in Buffalo, New York is praised as a hero after rescuing at least 24 people in a deadly winter storm by sheltering in a school. He broke into the school and rounded up stranded motorists, many on the verge of freezing to death.
“Merry Christmas Jay” Was Turned Away from People’s Homes, Thought He Would Die
Hailed as “Merry Christmas Jay,” Jay Withey was stuck on an impassible road on Christmas Eve in the midst of a deadly storm. A whiteout blizzard, subfreezing temperatures, and snowfall measuring above 4 feet prevented him from continuing on. He wasn’t alone. Cars were stranded all over the road, with people inside them.
According to WBEN News, at one point, another driver named Mary told Jay that she was running out of gas to heat her car. So, she hopped in with Jay but then he ran out of gas. No gas meant no heat. Jay said he could barely see anything. He ended up going from house to house begging for a floor to sleep on, offering $500, and was repeatedly turned away.
He said he thought he was going to die.
Then Jay decided to take his chances with a school about 600-700 feet away. He broke in via a window and found the code to the alarm. Then he returned and rounded up other freezing motorists, including 7 senior citizens, and brought them inside.
“I walked until I cried,” Jay told WBEN’s Tom Bauerle. He said he made a makeshift face mask with an extra hat in his truck so he could walk through the pummeling snowfall.
Hero Jay Patched up the School’s Window, Only Took What the Group Needed to Survive the Storm
Together, Jay and 2 dozen stranded motorists sheltered the storm inside the school’s cafeteria.
Although the cafeteria’s kitchen had fully stocked freezers, Jay only grabbed essential items. He said he took items like juice, cereal, fruit, and water, for the group.
“You found something that’s helping you out,” he said. “You want to give it as much respect as possible.”
By Christmas Day, the snowstorm had subsided, and everyone could go home. But not until Jay made a pathway through the snow using the school’s snowblower. He then patched up the broken window with cardboard and duct tape, leaving an apology note to the school.
The Cheektowaga Police were notified of the alarm at Pine Hill School on Christmas Eve but, due to a flood of calls from the storm, couldn’t look into it until the next day. And their response was perfect. They posted photos of surveillance, along with Jay’s note, and asked the public to help them identify him — because he was a hero.
“Do you recognize “Merry Christmas Jay”? a tweet read. “He pulled people from cars & sheltered them in a nearby school. He left a note apologizing for the damage & use of the snow blower he used to make a path to the school. We want to thank “Jay” for his heroic actions that saved people’s lives.
When Bauerle asked Withey what he thought of Christmas, he said “It has a totally different meaning now.” He added that he and everyone sheltered in the school that night feel like family.
The arctic “bomb cyclone” that hit the Buffalo area over Christmas weekend killed over 30 people. Many of the people who died during the storm were stranded in cars, just like those whom hero Jay saved.