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Beach Grit

Breaking: Human Chain Saves Lives in FL!

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

Who needs lifeguards when you've got 80 of the world's greatest friends?

Last week New Jersey got a lot of play on this site due to its bizarre beachside happenings. But if we are to be honest (and what is BeachGrit if not an oasis of hard-hitting truths?), when it comes to strange occurrences in the States, Florida is the undisputed epicenter of all things weird.

That’s why it comes as no surprise when, just this morning, I read about an 80-human chain that was used to rescue a drowning family in Panama City Beach. They had, just like every drowning family before them, gotten caught in a riptide. But let’s pick it up from the Washington Post:

Roberta Ursrey was among those caught in the treacherous rip currents. From 100 yards away in the Gulf of Mexico, between crashing waves and gulps of salt water, she heard the shouting, she told The Washington Post.

By then, Ursrey and the other eight people stranded with her had already been in the water for nearly 20 minutes, fighting for their lives. Ursrey and the others had ventured into the water to rescue her two sons, Noah, 11, and Stephen, 8, who had gotten separated from their family while chasing waves on their boogie boards.

And goddamnit! Our oppressively addictive sport has done it again. Will these children, aged eight and eleven, who are clearly infected with the surf bug, be forever remembered as Rip Current Cadavers One and Two? Will their non-helpful family members perish alongside? Let’s find out!

On shore, the human chain began forming, first with just five volunteers, then 15, then dozens more as the rescue mission grew more desperate.

Jessica and Derek Simmons swam past the 80 or so human links, some who couldn’t swim, and headed straight for the Ursreys, using surf and boogie boards to aid their rescue efforts.

“I got to the end, and I know I’m a really good swimmer,” Jessica Simmons told the News Herald. “I practically lived in a pool. I knew I could get out there and get to them.”

She and her husband started with the children, passing Noah and Stephen back along the human chain, which passed them all the way to the beach.

By the time Jessica Simmons reached Ursrey, the 34-year-old mother could hardly keep her head above water.

“I’m going to die this way,” Ursrey thought to herself, she told The Post. “My family is going to die this way. I just can’t do it.”

So the boys have been saved, but what of their drowning mother and family members? Oh I’d love to tell you, but wouldn’t that be a little unfair to The Post, who worked so hard to compile this tale? You can read the ending here, and witness the amazing human feat below.