New York mechanic Jay Withey drove out into the deadly blizzard that hit Buffalo, New York to try and help a friend but ended up stranded himself. Little did he know his misfortune would turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
Withey had ventured out into the dangerous storm on December 23rd but got stuck in the snow. In danger of freezing to death, he desperately knocked on doors in a Cheektowaga neighborhood offering $500 to have shelter from the brutal storm only to be denied 10 times, according to CNN.
The terrible turn of events would become the reason he is now being hailed as a hero. Withey later said, “If one of those houses had let me in, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to save so many lives.”
Withey, 27, recounted his incredible story of survival and how not being helped that night lead him to save himself and others by breaking into a school.
That night, he slept in his truck with two strangers after not being able to find shelter from the cold. The next morning he and others were running out of gas, and therefore heat. That’s when Withey noticed Pine Hill School nearby. There were seven elderly people also in their cars in the parking lot of the school who were also running out of gas.
Realizing they would all likely freeze to death without shelter, Withey broke the window of the school and went inside figuring there would be heat and food.
After turning off the school’s alarm and finding blankets and food for people to eat, Withey ventured out into the cold to look for other people who might need help.
In the end, Withey brought more than 20 people (and 2 dogs) inside and they hunkered down in the school with Withey on Christmas Eve and most of Christmas day, thankful for the shelter from a record-breaking storm that has claimed over 40 lives.
After tidying up and using the school’s snowblowers to blow the snow away from his car (as well as others), Withey left a note at the school apologizing for the break-in writing, ‘I had to do it to save everyone.’
Cheektowaga Police Department would later post surveillance photos and Jay’s note on Facebook asking for help to identify him. They wrote, “We want to identify ‘Jay’ and have him recognized for his going above and beyond actions that saved lives.” And that’s exactly what they did.
The experience has ended up bonding the group of strangers together. The department also shared an image of the some of the group who took refuge in the school and wrote, “Jay said they are all now like family and planning a SUMMER get together.”
As for Jay’s takeway, he told NBC News, “I hope people realize it’s important to be kind and to do the right thing to help one another.”