The winter storm that ravaged the nation during the Christmas holiday last weekend was unprecedented, but it was also a chance for people to show generosity and charity toward each other in adverse circumstances.
One such instance of this kindness occurred in the suburbs of Buffalo, New York.
Over the past few days, local media outlets have reported on the story of a mechanic, Jay Withey Jr., who found himself stranded on the road during the storm, but made an effort to save not only himself but other motorists as well.
According to Local 3 News, Withey had left home at about 6 p.m. on Dec. 23 to help a friend stuck in the snow. On his way, he picked up a young man named Mike, whom he found walking in the snow wearing sneakers and a lightweight jacket. Soon, however, his truck got stuck and Jay and Mike found themselves stranded.
Withey went to at least 10 houses, begging for help and offering to pay them $500 in return for shelter, but the residents refused to let him in. Returning to his truck, he and Mike were later joined by an elderly woman named Mary, who had been stranded on the road as well.
By morning, Withey’s truck had run out of gas, leaving them no way to stay warm. Withey only had one choice left for survival. He broke a classroom window at the nearby EDGE Academy, climbed inside and opened the door. He then went back to fetch Mike and Mary and bring them inside.
But Withey didn’t stop there. According to NBC, he went back and found other stranded motorists, bringing them inside the school. There, they found food, water, blankets, and medicine but only used what was absolutely necessary for their survival.
They then made sure to clean up before they left on Christmas Day, putting everything back the way they found it.
Withey even left a note for the school, apologizing for breaking the window and explaining that he had done it to save himself and the lives of his fellow stranded motorists.
According to Local 3, the letter read, “To Whomever It May Concern: I’m terribly sorry about breaking the school window and for breaking in the kitchen. Got stuck at 8 p.m. Friday and slept in my truck with two strangers, just trying not to die. There were 7 elderly people also stuck and out of fuel. I had to do it to save everyone and get them shelter and food and a bathroom. Merry Christmas. Jay.”
According to Buffalo News, when police arrived a few days later, examined the surveillance footage and found Jay’s letter, they were stunned. Normally, such an act would land a person in jail, but the police knew that this man was nothing but a hero.
“We watched the video surveillance and witnessed people taking care of people,” a police statement said.
“There was a freezer full of food but no one touched it. They only ate what was necessary to stay alive. … When they were finally able to leave safely, you never would have known anyone was there.”
Since then, Jay has been praised on social media as a selfless hero for his efforts to help save the lives of his fellow citizens during the blizzard. One Twitter user even asked President Biden to give Withey a medal of honor for his heroism
BUFFALO BLIZZARD HERO IDENTIFIED!! Cheektowaga Police say Jay Withey, from Tonawanda, pulled people from cars & sheltered them in a nearby school during the blizzard. Although he had to break into the school, police are commending him for his heroic actions ❤️💙 THANK YOU JAY!! pic.twitter.com/rLd80J3o35
— Niagara Action (@NiagaraAction) December 30, 2022
A tale of heroism from the recent blizzard: Jay Withey let 2 strangers huddle with him in his truck & then got them & 7 others to shelter.
In reading this, I was struck by our culture’s isolationism: why didn’t more strangers seek each other out?https://t.co/hN69pcQqAi
— 🌊🌊Blue Heron🌊🌊 (@henricoblue) December 30, 2022
#POTUS Mr President I am asking if you could give Jay Withey a metal of honor for saving lives in Erie NY. He really deserves after what he did. It’s all over the news and it would be humane to do this for him. Please please honor this man
— LaWanda Houp (@HoupLawanda) December 30, 2022
Robert Holzman, a corrections officer who was part of the group, also spoke to Buffalo News about how the experience brought people together and resulted in lifelong friendships. “We were all from different races and backgrounds and cultures, and we all just bonded. We’re going to be friends for life. We all chipped in. it was like a family right off the bat. There was no arguing. We all did something and we all helped out. It was amazing.”
Do you recognize “Merry Christmas Jay”? He pulled people from cars & sheltered them in a near by 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. pic.twitter.com/iqdKitwEHa
— Cheektowaga Police (@CPDNYInfo) December 29, 2022
This story illustrates nothing more than the shared humanity that transcends any divisions and comes out during the most desperate of circumstances.
Buffalo was one of the hardest-hit regions during last week’s winter storm that saw about 40 people killed and emergency services stretched thin in what was described as one of the worst weather-related disasters in history.
Such events can often bring out the worst in humanity, as evidenced by the fact that Buffalo saw a spike in looting during the storm, due to the fact that emergency services were occupied or could not reach certain areas of the city.
But they can also serve as an opportunity to remind us of the shared humanity that exists between each of us, and they serve as an opportunity to bring out the best in humanity.
This is what happened in the case of Jay Withey.
At a time of increasing division and polarization in our country, this story serves as an important reminder that when it comes down to the wire, we are all human beings, regardless of race, background or political affiliation.
These divisions are superficial. What really matters is our shared humanity, and that is what was on display at EDGE Academy on Christmas Eve.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.