Man Breaks Into School And Saves Over A Dozen People During Blizzard

December 31, 2022

A man broke into a school to save over a dozen lives during the historic blizzard that barreled through New York last week.

The local police department is calling him a hero.

man breaks into school to save people blizzard
Jay Withey / Cheektowaga Police Department

The Cheektowaga Police Department (CPD) were looking for a man named "Jay" after they found a hand-written note on a table inside Pine Hill School.

An officer was dispatched to the school after a keyholder reported that a broken window triggered the alarm.

"Unfortunately, due to the deteriorating weather conditions we were unable to respond immediately to the alarm," the CPD said in a statement. "Once we could send an officer to check the building they found one of the windows had been broken out. The officer made entry and checked the school but nothing seemed out of place. They thought that maybe the damage was caused from the hurricane winds till they saw a handwritten note left on a table."

man breaks into school to save people blizzard
Cheektowaga Police Department

The CPD continued: "We watched the video surveillance and witnessed people taking care of people. There was a freezer full of food but no one touched it. They only ate what was necessary to stay alive. They used the gym for the kids to play and pulled the smart boards out of the classrooms to watch the news for updates. They had 2 dogs they were also attending to.

When they were finally able to leave safely, you never would have known anyone was there. They plugged the smart boards back in, cleaned up all the tables and things that they used. This group of amazing people took care of each other and the building they found shelter in. Neither Erie One Boces or Cheektowaga Central administration want any charges filed. We want to identify 'Jay' and have him recognized for his going above and beyond actions that saved lives."

The man has been identified as Jay Withey, a mechanic in the town of Cheektowaga who had ventured out to help a trapped friend, but instead got caught in the snow himself.

Over the course of the night, he would be turned away by several homeowners he begged for help, eventually committing a final act of desperation to save himself and more than a dozen others from the brutal storm.

The first night, Withey rescued two strangers, Mike and Mary, by letting them sleep in his truck. The next morning, he was close to running out of fuel. One of the strangers was an elderly woman who needed to use a bathroom.

It was then that Withey, sensing she felt embarrassed, looked at his phone's GPS and noticed that a school was nearby.

Using an extra set of brake pads, Withey smashed through a window of the school so he could open the front door and let Mike and Mary in, with the security alarm blaring.

"I walk outside in the immediate area and there are a lot of older people that are stranded in their cars," Withey said.

 

Withey helped guide everyone inside the school.

Withey scavenged for cereal and apples in the cafeteria, managed to turn off the alarm, and found mats in the gym for everyone to sleep on.

"Everyone is just so happy to be in the school and to be warm and have food," he told CNN.

On Christmas morning, Withey and the others were able to use snow blowers from the janitor's closet to free their cars from the mounds of snow.

Before he left, he left the note apologizing for the break-in.

The CPD were able to find Withey with the public's help after sharing his note and surveillance camera images on social media.

"We identified the amazing Jay with the help of his friends and family! Our Chief was able to speak to him and express our gratitude for his heroic actions. This is a picture we received of them that night. Jay said they are all now like family and planning a SUMMER get together," the CPD wrote.

man breaks into school to save people blizzard
The group of stranded people took this photo that night

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