Buffalo Heroes Save Strangers During Historic Blizzard

Buffalo Heroes Save Strangers During Historic Blizzard

January 31, 2023 by Catherine Stack

BUFFALO, New York—A recent winter snowstorm brought Buffalo to a standstill, prompting news outlets to dub it the “blizzard of the century.” When the storm passed, many inspiring stories of the kindness of strangers began to surface. A Buffalo woman named Sha'Kyra Aughtry rescued a disabled man from the blizzard by taking him in off the streets, carrying him into her home and caring for him until help arrived. While in a town nearby a man named Jay Withey provided shelter for over a dozen stranded motorists by breaking into an empty school. These everyday heroes highlight the capacity for human kindness amid stressful and life-threatening situations. Their kindness and willingness to pull together during a crisis helped save lives.

Two of these stories, those of everyday heroes Sha'Kyra Aughtry and Jay Withey, highlight the capacity for human kindness amid stressful and life-threatening situations. Their kindness helped save lives.

Sha'Kyra Aughtry was contemplating a quiet Christmas Eve resting with her fiancé, Trent. Her three children were stranded at one of their friend’s homes due to the snowstorm. She suddenly heard a man’s scream for help outside her door. She immediately dialed 911 to help the stranger stranded in the frigid temperatures. Due to the dangerous weather, dispatchers informed her that they would add her request to the already long list of incoming emergency calls.

Sha’Kyra took matters into her own hands. Trent helped her carry the helpless man into her home so she could care for him until help arrived.

The man, Joe White, lives nearby in a group disability home. He had been walking his usual path home from his job when he found himself helplessly stuck in the brunt of the storm’s impact. The rapidly deteriorating blizzard conditions and blustery winds made it impossible for him to continue on his journey home.

Joe’s dire condition included severe frostbite. Sha’Kyra used a blow dryer to melt the ice from his red and blistered hands. She wrapped his extremities in blankets and kept him as warm as possible as he rested. Joe gave Sha’Kyra his sister’s phone number. Sha’Kyra facetimed the sister, Yvonne, which comforted Joe.

Sha’Kyra knew that Joe needed immediate medical attention. She pleaded on Facebook Live for help. Kind community members answered her pleas and, when safe to do so, traveled to her home to transport Joe to the nearest hospital. Joe remains in stable condition at the hospital.

Yvonne believes that Sha’Kyra’s kind actions saved her brother’s life. She said that she and her brother now “have an extended family member.”

“My brother's mental capacity is that of an 11-year-old child,” Yvonne shared. “If it wasn't for this angel, if it wasn't for this wonderful, wonderful human being, he would've perished and he would've been another statistic in this storm.”

When asked what motivated her to take in a total stranger from the cold, Sha’Kyra explained that her family always taught her the value of compassion for others.

“I am glad I was able to have power, heat and food to pay it forward. We have to work together,” she advised.

In other heroic storm news, a man named Jay Withey provided shelter and saved more than a dozen stranded motorists by breaking into an empty school.

“I had to do it to save everyone,” he explained.

Jay had been en route to help a stranded friend during the early hours of the blizzard. While driving, he saw a man named Mike struggling to walk in the increasing wind and wearing only light clothing. Jay told Mike to jump in his truck to escape the cold. The two men drove past high snow drifts and many abandoned vehicles. Suddenly, Jay’s truck lodged in the snow, requiring him to dig out.

"I'm ttrying to dig myself out, but the snow is coming down just as fast as I’m shoveling,” he said.

Jay’s clothing was soaked, and he was getting low on fuel. His concern grew. He knocked on several doors and offered money to spend the night on the floor, but everyone turned him away.

“My vision is getting foggy, my body is cramping up, and I’m fearing for my life,” he recalled.

Jay’s calls to 911 were futile as the conditions had become too dangerous for anyone to be on road. They would have to wait for the conditions to improve for help to arrive.

Jay and Mike remained in the car. Hours later, they heard a knock on the car window and were surprised to see an elderly woman named Mary. Mary said she needed help, so she joined the men in the car to keep warm. Jay checked his phone’s GPS and realized that a school, Edge Academy, was located nearby. He knew they had to get into that school to survive the night.

Jay smashed through the school’s windows using an extra set of brake pads from his truck. He then opened the front door and let Mike and Mary in. He then walked back into the blizzard to gather all the nearby stranded motorists: a large group of people of all ages and walks of life.

Once in the school, Jay managed to turn off the blaring alarm system. The group found cereal and apples in the cafeteria and mats from the gym to sleep on.

On Christmas morning, the group found snow blowers in the school janitor’s closet and were able to free their snowbound vehicles. Jay stayed until everyone drove away safely. Prior to leaving the school himself, he left a note apologizing for the break-in.

Jay will not face any charges for the break-in due to the dire circumstances. He saved the lives of several people that day. The group of stranded strangers plan to stay in touch via group chat.

The Foundation For a Better Life and PassItOn believe that Sha'Kyra Aughtry and Jay Withey are true heroes. Their caring actions offer great examples of the value of pulling together during a time of crisis. Sha’Kyra and Jay have shown us how the best of humanity happens when we help one another.

Watch video here: https://youtube.com/watch?v=bz8x5PQErWQ&feature=shares

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