Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Niagara Miracle

A Hero

                               A hero thinks of others before they think of themselves.
                               A hero will die to protect.
                               A hero can be of any age or colour.
                               A hero can be man, woman or child.
                               A hero is courageous, loving and brave.
                               A hero will never complain.
                               A hero can be made in one act of compassion
                                  or years of tender, loving care.
Some heroes are remembered, whilst others are left forgotten.

Heroes are angels in disguise saving precious innocent lives.

(Nicola Burkett)

This poem introduces my final submission about Heroes...
perhaps the most dramatic, the most heart-rending, the most “close-to-home”
experience that affected us all...emotionally and significantly!

Perhaps one of the most miraculous stories ever told took place at Niagara Falls on Saturday afternoon, July 9, 1960. A man from Niagara Falls, New York, 
took two neighbour children for a boat ride in the upper Niagara River.
The boat developed motor trouble, capsized into the river and all three were
thrown into the upper rapids. The man went over the Falls and was killed.

At the same time, the 17 year old girl was plucked 6m (20 ft) from the very edge of the Falls and her 7 year old brother, wearing only a life jacket and a bathing suit, went over the Horseshoe Falls. He came out alive to tell his story.
His name was Roger Woodward.

Luckily, one of the scenic Maid of the Mist boats was just making its turn below the Falls when one of the crew spotted the bright orange life jacket. The veteran Captain Clifton Keech manoeuvered the boat so that the crew could pick up the boy on the starboard side. After two unsuccessful throws, a life preserver landed within reach of the crying youngster. Lifted safely on board the vessel, Roger mumbled his concern about his sister.

Within the hour, word spread of this Niagara Miracle. Roger was whisked
to the Greater Niagara Hospital in Niagara Falls, Ontario, where he remained for three days with a slight concussion.

Another miracle was occurring at the brink of the Horseshoe Falls
on the American side at Terrapin Point (on Goat Island). Seventeen year old Deanne Woodward was being furiously swept towards the brink of the Falls. Hundreds stood at the brink of the Falls ...almost paralysed
with concern for the plight of this young girl.

Two men, both from New Jersey but unknown to each other, sprang into action.
John R. Hayes, a truck driver (also and auxiliary police officer ) from Union,
New Jersey climbed over the rail, stretched out his arm and pleaded with Deanne...later said that his pleading voice made her swim harder and she caught his thumb just before going over the Falls. Fearful the current would break his hold on the young girl, he shouted for help. Climbing over the railing, John Quattrochi of Pennsgrove, New Jersey came to the rescue and the two
pulled the frightened teenager to safety. Once on land, Deanne's concern
was also for her brother. Quietly, John Quattrochi whispered, “Pray for him”.

With only a cut hand, Deanne was rushed to a hospital in Niagara Falls, New York where she learned of her brother's miraculous fate. The body of the man who had taken them on a boat ride, Jim Honeycutt, was freed from the depths of the Niagara River four days later.

Roger Woodward returned to Niagara Falls, Ontario on the thirtieth anniversary of the accident and spoke to the congregation at the Glengate Alliance Church. The audience was hushed as the 37 year old told how the 12-foot aluminum fishing boat equipped with a 8.5 horsepower motor was caught in the fast flowing current, capsizing after hitting a shoal and breaking an engine pin.

Recalling his thoughts from the rapids, he said, “For me there was initially pure panic. I was scared to death. I can remember going through the rapids...
and being thrown against the rocks and being bounced around like a toy in the water and being beaten up pretty badly. My panic very quickly shifted to anger and the anger was from seeing people running frantically up and down the shoreline and wondering...why they wouldn't come out and rescue me.”

Roger Woodward then said, After fear and anger, came peace. There was a time I thought I was going to die and my seven years of life literally passed before me and I started thinking what my parents would do with my dog and my toys and had really given up at that point and felt I was going to die that afternoon.”

Roger Woodward did not die that afternoon and has made several trips with his family to Niagara since the miraculous incident.

In 1994, Roger Woodward and his sister, Deanne Woodward Simpson once more travelled to Niagara Falls to retell their story on a half-hour Canadian television special. Joining them were the two gentlemen, now both in their eighties, who rescued Deanne from above the Falls. For Deanne, it was an extremely emotional meeting. She had not seen both gentlemen for over 30 years, nor had she since stood at the edge of the Falls that had almost claimed  both her life and that of her brother.

Reflecting on the accident years later, Roger Woodward said,
It wasn't the hand of fate. It wasn't the hand of luck.
It wasn't the spirit of Lelawala.
It was the spirit of the living God that saved my life that day and saved my sister
and gave us hope that one day, we would come to meet Him.”

Notation: Lelawala is a Native American Legend about “The Maid of the Mist”.

   Postscript: Following the news of this near-tragedy, I recall a newspaper  
                     depiction  of "a black hand grasping the hand of a white girl"
                     rescuing her from the turbulent rapids near the Fall's jagged rim.
Merle Baird-Kerr
written September 4, 2011

Dear Readers: Numerous stories can be told and written about Heroes. Initially I had selected three which increased to six...each one totally worthy...historically and of heroic actions today.

We cannot overlook the heroes of September 11, 2011
at Ground Zero in New York City.

A Tribute to Entenmann's Lady                 Cross Among the Ruins

Heroes come in different forms                  On an early September morning
And some are never known.                        Hatred reared its ugly head.
Giving all they could possibly give              Terrorism struck Manhatten.
From their hearts and on their own.           Its wake left thousands dead.

Susan is one of these heroes                       It truly was a miracle...
Who ran...before being asked.                    How many lives were saved.
She knew the horror and suffering there:   Overshadowed by the horror
Performing one of life's greatest tasks.       Of the war-like rubbled gravel.

The pictures show the work she's done      Time seemed frozen, hope was lost
To help feed the folks at Ground Zero.       For loved ones left behind.
The Entenmann's Lady deserves credit      Trying to hold on... to their faith,
And the title of “American Hero”.               Praying God gives a sign.

     (Eleanor...the Songwriter)                       Uncovered from the wreckage
    (Susan Vitti obtained from                      A sight that seemed unreal...
Entenmann's  Master Bakery: pies             A cross...that stood 'bout 20 feet
  cookies, cakes, donuts, bagels.                 From twisted beams of steel.
  She brought other necessities
       that could be used. )                                         (Marge Batzer)


  1. Dear Merle...an amazing true story telling of heros...three cheers to you for acknowleding the brave people of our earth... and don't forget those Hero Dogs who have done their part too!
    I just loved your last piece here... so poignant considering 9/11. May God be with all of us !

  2. Sherrie...beautifully expressed! Thank You!