As the US reels from a winter storm that has killed nearly 50 people nationwide, stories of hope and resilience have nonetheless emerged from America’s hardest hit region, western New York state.
This storm, which has resulted in 27 deaths around the city of Buffalo, brought hurricane-force winds and nearly four feet of snow in parts of the region, thwarting first responders’ emergency response and rescue efforts. “This is a war with mother nature, and she has been hitting us with everything she has,” New York’s governor Kathy Hochul said.
But amid the tragedy and deadly conditions, stories of endurance, survival and rescue have emerged. Good Samaritans took stranded travelers into their homes; strangers worked together to help a snow-trapped expectant mother through home birth.
A South Korean tour group, which was headed for Niagara Falls, found their van stuck in the snow outside Buffalo. Two members of the group knocked on the door of a nearby house, and asked for shovels.
The homeowners, Alexander and Andrea Campagna, invited the nine travelers and their tour van driver into their home; the group stayed there over the weekend, departing Sunday, according to the New York Times.
“It was kind of like fate,” said Pyeongtaek resident Yoseb Choi, who was with his wife, Claire, on the tour, and describing the Campagnas as “the kindest people I have ever met”.
The Times quoted Alexander Campagna as saying: “We have enjoyed this so much … we will never forget this.”
A family of six from Williamsville, near Buffalo, tried to get to a hotel on Friday night after losing power, but soon found themselves stranded in the snow. Buffalo airport firefighters rescued the parents Demetrice and Danielle, as well as their four children, who ranged in age from nine months to eight years, CNN reported.
Demetrice and Danielle were the only people among the more than three dozen rescued near Buffalo’s airport who were traveling with small children, so the family got to spend the evening and Christmas eve at the fire station, per CNN. The firefighters worked quickly to find presents to “make sure Santa paid a visit”, the outlet said.
Births during the blizzard have also shown neighbors’ heroic efforts to help one another. Mark Poloncarz, Erie county executive, said that a snow plow paved the way to bring a woman with a complicated pregnancy to the hospital, where she had a successful birth, Syracuse.com reported.
Some women who didn’t make it to the hospital were guided through births with calls to midwives and doulas. Erica and Davon Thomas experienced this firsthand.
Erica, whose baby was due on Christmas, started to feel contractions on Friday night, as the blizzard peaked, according to the Buffalo News. While Erica and Davon lived just 5 miles from the birthing hospital, they were snowed in.
Davon sought help from 911, but was told that first responders couldn’t get to them because of the weather. Late Saturday morning, Erica’s contractions were a mere 3min apart.
His friend logged onto a Buffalo blizzard Facebook group for assistance; a doula was offering to help. The couple and the doula, Raymonda Reynolds, got on a video chat. Reynolds guided Erica and then brought her friend, doula and nurse Iva Michelle Blackburn, onto the chat, according to the newspaper.
Around 3.30pm, with the doulas’ long-distance guidance, Erica gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Devynn Brielle Thomas. “She just looked at both of us … She just gave us a look like, ‘Well, I’m here,’” Davon told the outlet.
Early the next day, a woman called Davon to tell them that her husband, Angel Lugo, would drive them to the hospital in his truck. While Lugo couldn’t drive down their snow-covered street, he reportedly walked to the Thomas’ home, guided them to the truck several blocks away, and brought them to the hospital. “Buffalo is called the City of Good Neighbors for a good reason,” Davon told the newspaper.