‘I had to do it to save everyone’: Man rushes into school to save more than 20 from blizzard



CNN

As a deadly and historic blizzard swept through New York’s Erie County last weekend, some residents found themselves in dire straits — stuck in howling snow with nowhere to go, their cars running low on gas, and police unable to come to the rescue.

Among those trapped last Friday was Jay Wiede, a mechanic in the town of Cheektowaga who volunteered to help a friend who got stuck, but instead got stuck in the snow. Over the course of the night, he would be turned away by several people who pleaded for help, eventually making a final act of desperation to save himself and more than 20 others from the brutal storm.

His night began at 6 a.m. when he received a call from a friend stranded in the fast-moving snow.

“He said I was the only person he knew who would come, so I thought I’d get him,” Withe said.

Weaving between the abandoned vehicles littering the street, he made his way towards his friend. Suddenly, a young man named Mike walks by wearing sneakers and a light jacket. He asked Mike to get into the truck to escape the cold.

Withe said his truck got stuck twice as he drove through snowdrifts several feet high. The first time, he managed to force his way through, but the second time felt hopeless.

“I’m trying to dig myself out, but the snow is coming down as fast as I can throw the shovel,” he said. With his clothes drenched and only a quarter of fuel left in a tank, Withe began to worry.

Leaving Mike in the truck, they began knocking on the doors of houses on the street to see if anyone would offer them shelter.

Vide said he would go to 10 houses and deliver to each one $500 to spend the night in their loft. Everyone turned him away. “I beg them, ‘Please, can I sleep on the floor, I’m afraid for my life,’ and they say, ‘No, sorry,'” she said.

Feeling defeated, Withe tried to make his way back to his truck, but was lost in the blustery air and thick snow.

“My vision is getting foggy, my body is cramping, I fear for my life,” he said.

Finally, he saw a light in the distance and remembered the same blinking light he had parked his truck next to.

After crawling back to the truck, Withe called the police, but due to dangerous storm conditions, they were unable to come to his rescue, he said. He also learned that the friend who had called for help had been rescued by the authorities.

As the gas became dangerously low, Withe was worried, but tired, so he tried to take a nap.

At 11pm, he heard a car window rattle and opened the door to find Mary, an elderly woman who said she had been stuck in the car since 4pm and needed help. He also asked her to get into the truck.

The next morning, Withey’s truck runs out of gas, and the trio sneaks into Mary’s van, which is also running low on fuel.

Eventually, Mary had to use the bathroom. It was then, Vidhe said, realizing he was blushing, looking at his phone’s GPS and noticing that there was a school nearby – EDGE Academy.

“I say, ‘I’m going to that school, I’m going to walk into that school because I know they have heat and bathrooms,'” he said.

Using extra brake pads, he broke the school’s window so he could open the front door and let Mike and Mary in, the security alarm going off.

“I walk out in the immediate area and there are a lot of elderly people stuck in their cars,” Withey said. “One had a dog, and I put them in the school. At the moment, there are about 10 people in the school. They range in age from 20 to 70,” he said.

With the group settled into the school, Withe managed to scavenge cereal and apples in the cafeteria, turn off the alarm, and find mats in the gym for everyone to sleep on.

“Everyone is so happy to be at school, hot and eating,” she said.

On Christmas morning, Veede and the others were able to use snow blowers from the janitor’s closet to free their cars from the snowdrifts.

Describing himself as a religious man, he said he considered the whole ordeal a blessing in disguise. If a person took He pleaded for refuge that night, saying he would not have saved those people.

A man who turned him in saw Withe throwing snow cars and approached him in tears to apologize, saying he couldn’t sleep that night knowing he had denied him shelter.

Withey stayed at school until 8pm on Christmas Day. “I didn’t leave until I made sure everyone was OK,” he said, adding that they started a group chat to keep in touch.

Before he left, he made sure to leave a note apologizing for the break-in, police discovered when he eventually managed to respond to the alarm that went off when he entered the school.

“To whomever it may concern, I am deeply sorry for breaking the school window and breaking the kitchen,” it said. “Stuck at 8pm on a Friday, sleeping in my truck with two strangers, trying not to die,” it continued. “The 7-year-olds were also trapped in the fuel. I had to do it to save everyone and give them shelter and food and a shower. He signed the letter “Merry Christmas Jay.”

Cheektowaga police were able to locate Vidhe with the public’s help after sharing his tip and surveillance camera images.

Police Chief Brian Gould told CNN that Withey was in an area of ​​the city that was difficult for them to get to. The chairman called Withey’s act heroic and an example of community spirit among the people of the area.

“We were absolutely shocked that he had over 20 people at school (and) two dogs,” she said.

“Not just a heroic move, but an overall good man.” “He definitely saved some lives that day,” Gould said.

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