A 27-year-old man dubbed as ‘Merry Christmas Jay’ is going viral for his heroic actions when he was caught on camera breaking into a school and guiding others who were stranded outside in the street to safety during the blizzard.
The incident took place at Cheektowaga, a town in Erie County, New York, in the middle of a historic and dangerous blizzard. Jay Withey had gone out to pick up his friend who was stuck in the storm and while on his way, he also got stuck and was unable to drive further.
He then went on knocking on the doors of at least 10 households, offering them $500 to let him in, and told them that he could even sleep on their floor but all of them refused and turned him away.
“I plead with them, ‘Please, please can I sleep on the floor, I’m in fear for my life,’ and they say, ‘No I’m sorry’,” he said.
Feeling dejected, Jay, made his way back to his truck and tried to take a nap as he was tired. He had earlier taken in another young man called Mike who was walking alone in the storm with just a thin jacket, clearly not enough to weather the blizzard. They both decided to spend the night inside the truck.
Then a knock came in at 11 pm from Mary, an elderly lady who had also been stuck for more than 7 hours. She told Jay that she needed help, so he invited her to get inside as well. The next morning, the fuel in Jay’s truck had all run out, so they moved to Mary’s car which was also running low on gas.
Eventually, Mary needed to use the bathroom. It was then that Withey, sensing she felt embarrassed, looked at his phone’s GPS and noticed that a school – EDGE Academy – was nearby.
“I say, ‘I’m going to that school, and I’m going to break into that school because I know they have heat and a bathroom,’” he said.
With the help of some extra brake pads, Jay smashed through the window and was able to open the front door and let all three of them inside in the school. Seeing that there were lots of other people outside, Jay guided them all inside the school.
Jay got hold of some mats from the gym for everyone to sleep on, some apples and cereals were also scavenged from the school’s cafeteria. “Everyone is just so happy to be in the school and to be warm and have food,” Jay told.
Describing himself as a religious man, for Jay, the whole incident is seen as a blessing in disguise. He said that, had one person taken him up on his plea for shelter that night, he would not have saved all those people.
Before he left, Jay made sure to write a letter of apology, saying, “To whomever, it may concern, I’m terribly sorry about breaking the school window and for breaking in the kitchen,” it read. “Got stuck at 8 pm Friday and slept in my truck with two strangers, just trying not to die,” it continued. “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.” And signed the letter, “Merry Christmas Jay.”
Police Chief Brian Gould has praised Jay for his actions and describes the incident as an exemplary sense of community among the people in the area.
Jay’s mom says that she is proud of her son. And according to Jay, it has been a humbling experience and the people he rescued are now like family. As for those whom he had saved, they could not have been more grateful and are glad to have met Jay that day. They have even formed a chat group and are planning a reunion in the summer.