“They linked up wrists, legs, arms. If they were there, they were helping…It actually showed me there are good people in this world.” – Roberta Ursrey
PANAMA CITY BEACH, FLORIDA – At first, it seemed like nothing was wrong. Then, a police truck pulled up on the boardwalk, lights flashing. 100 yards past the beach, nearly a dozen people were crying out for help, praying for someone – anyone – to notice them.
Six members of a family and four other swimmers who had tried to help them had been caught in a riptide and swept out to sea.
Roberta Ursrey was one of the people caught in the water. Her two boys had been pulled out by the riptide. She, her 27-year-old nephew, 31-year-old husband, and 67-year-old mother had all gone in after them – only to be trapped by the ocean, too.
“The tide knocked every bit of energy out of us,” she said, “I was exhausted.”
Ursrey’s mother, Barbara Franz, began having a heart attack while they were stranded. At one point, she asked for them to “just let her go” and save themselves. Instead, Roberta’s nephew and husband held her up while they struggled to tread water and wait for a rescue.
All they could do was call for help.
Jessica Simmons was one of the first people to notice. She was a strong swimmer. There was no lifeguard on duty. She had to think fast to try and help the group stranded out in the ocean. There was no formal rescue equipment – only surf boards, wake boards, and people.
“These people are not drowning today. It’s not happening. We’re going to get them out.” – Jessica Simmons.
On the beach, slowly, a human chain began to form. They linked arms together, those in the water firmly anchored by those on the sand. They began with the children, passing them through the chain until the boys were safe on the beach. After that, the other adults were finally brought to the shore. Ursrey’s mother was rushed to the hospital and put on a ventilator.
In the end, everyone was okay.
Jessica Simmons made a Facebook post about the event later, saying: “To see people from different races and genders come into action to help TOTAL strangers is absolutely amazing to see!! People who didn’t even know each other went HAND IN HAND IN A LINE, into the water to try and reach them. Pause and just IMAGINE that.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!
Watch the incredible rescue caught on video below: