Nine members of the Ursrey family were enjoying a day at the beach when Roberta Ursrey noticed her sons were too far out in the water for safety. It was when she began walking down the beach toward them that she could hear their screams.
Roberta and her family swam out to try to rescue her sons, only to get caught in the riptide themselves. All each of the nine members of the Ursrey family could do was tread water, but the resulting exhaustion would have inevitably become too much.
“I honestly thought I was going to lose my family that day,” Roberta Ursrey told the Panama City News Herald. “It was like, ‘Oh God, this is how I’m going.’”
Luckily for the Ursreys, beachgoer Jessica Simmons saw what was happening, grabbed a boogie board, and set out toward the riptide. As she did, her husband and a few others started to form a human chain.
“These people are not drowning today,” Simmons says she told herself as she paddled out into the sea. “It’s not happening. We’re going to get them out.”
As Simmons grew closer to the family, the length of the chain continued to grow. When she was finally able to start ferrying the Ursreys one by one, children first, to the end of the chain, a link of 80 human beings stretched over 100 yards into the ocean.
Amazingly, all nine members of the Ursrey family were saved — even the grandmother, who suffered a massive heart attack during the experience but is now recovering in the hospital.
“These people were God’s angels that were in the right place at the right time,” Roberta Ursrey said after the ordeal. “I owe my life and my family’s life to them. Without them, we wouldn’t be here.”
Jessica Simmons says that for her, it was about people coming together.
“It’s so cool to see how we have our own lives and we’re constantly at a fast pace, but when somebody needs help, everybody drops everything and helps,” she told the Panama City News Herald.
Calling the whole experience “inspiring,” she says it’s particularly so considering the state of global affairs:
“With everything going on in the world, we still have humanity.”