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‘I had to do it to save everyone’: The man broke into the school and sheltered nearly a dozen people from a blizzard




CNN

As a historic and deadly blizzard swept through Erie County, New York, last weekend, some residents found themselves in a dire situation — trapped in the screaming snow with nowhere to go, oh Their car ran out of gas and the police couldn’t come to the rescue.

Among those stranded last Friday was Jay Withey, a mechanic in the town of Cheektowaga who ventured out to help a stranded friend, but instead ended up trapped himself. stuck in the snow. Over the course of that night, he was rejected by some of the people he begged for help, and ended up taking one last desperate act to save himself and at least 10 others from the raging storm. fierce.

His night begins at 6 p.m. when he gets a call from a friend who is stuck in the fast snow.

“He said I was the only person he knew who would drop by so I thought I would go pick him up,” Withey said.

Withey drove towards his friend, weaving his way among the abandoned cars scattered on the road. Suddenly, he saw a young man named Mike wearing sneakers and a light jacket. He told Mike to jump in the truck to get out of the cold.

Withey said, while driving through layers of snow several meters high, his truck got stuck twice. The first time, he was able to find a way out, but the second time felt hopeless.

“I was trying to dig myself out, but the snow was falling as fast as my shoveling speed,” he said. With his clothes drenched and only a quarter of a gas tank left, Withey began to worry.

Leaving Mike in the truck, he began knocking on the doors of every house along the street to see if anyone had given them shelter.

Withey said he went to 10 households, inviting each one $500 to spend the night on their floor. They all turned their backs on him. “I begged them, ‘Please, please let me sleep on the floor, I’m scared for my life,’ and they said, ‘No, I’m sorry,’” he said.

Feeling defeated, Withey tries to get back into his truck, but gets lost in the blowing wind and heavy snow.

“My vision blurred, my body contracted and I feared for my life,” he said.

Finally, he saw a flash of light in the distance, the same flickering light he remembered when he parked his truck next to it.

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

When the gas was running low, Withey was worried but tired, so he tried to take a nap.

At around 11pm, he heard a knock on the car door and opened it to find Mary, an elderly woman who said she had been trapped in her car since 4pm and needed help. So he told her to get on the truck too.

By the next morning, Withey’s truck ran out of gas, forcing the trio to squeeze into Mary’s truck, which was also running low on fuel.

Finally, Mary needs to use the bathroom. Then Withey, feeling embarrassed, looked at the GPS on his phone and noticed that a school — EDGE Academy — was nearby, he said.

“I said, ‘I’m going to that school, and I’m going to break into that school, because I know they have heaters and bathrooms,’” he said.

Using an extra set of brake pads, Withey smashed through the school’s window so he could open the front door and let Mike and Mary in while the security alarms blared.

Jay Withey was stranded in Cheektowaga, a town in Erie County, New York, amid a historic and dangerous blizzard, and — after seeking shelter in multiple homes and being turned away — he broke into a nearby school and managed to rescue nearly a dozen people.

Withey said: “I walked out into the immediate area and there were a lot of elderly people stuck in their cars. “One has a dog, and I take them all to school. At the moment, I have about 10 people in the school.” He estimated their ages ranged from 20 to 70 years old.

As the group settles into school, Withey picks up cereal and apples in the canteen, finds a way to turn off the alarm, and finds mats in the gym for everyone to sleep in.

“Everybody is happy to be at school, to be warmly dressed and to have food,” he said.

On Christmas morning, Withey and the others were able to use the snow blower from the janitor’s cupboard to free their cars from the snow.

Withey, who describes himself as a devout person, said he sees the whole ordeal as a blessing in disguise. He said if only one person begged him for shelter that night, he wouldn’t have saved all of them.

A man turned him down when he saw the snow blowing Withey’s car and went to him in tears to apologize, saying he couldn’t sleep that night when he learned he had refused to let Withey stay. hidden.

Withey stayed at the school until 8pm on Christmas Day. “I’m not leaving until I’m sure everyone is okay,” he said, adding that they had started a group chat to stay in touch.

Before he left, he certainly left a letter apologizing for the break-in, which police found when they were finally able to respond to the alarm Withey set when he entered the school. .

“Dear anyone involved, I am deeply sorry for breaking a school window and breaking into the kitchen,” it wrote. “Stuck at 8pm on Friday and slept in my truck with two strangers, trying not to die,” it continued. “There were 7 old people who were also stuck and ran out of gas. I have to do it to save people and give them shelter, food, and a bathroom.” He signed the letter, “Merry Christmas Jay.”

Cheektowaga police were able to find Withey with the help of the public after sharing his notes and surveillance camera images.

Cheektowaga police chief Brian Gould told CNN Withey was in an area of ​​town that they had difficulty accessing. The sheriff called Withey’s actions heroic, an example of the community’s sense of community in the area.

“He definitely saved a few lives that day,” Gould said.

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