Amazing Human Chain: 'These People Are Not Drowning Today'
Bystanders at Panama City Beach in Florida step up
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 11, 2017 11:14 AM CDT
An image of the human chain, captured in a tweet.   (Twitter/The News Herald)

(Newser) – It could have been the worst story of the day. Instead, it's one of the best. Dozens of strangers formed a human chain and saved a family from drowning at Panama City Beach in Florida, per the News Herald. The Washington Post reports that 10 people were rescued in all after they were caught in a rip current offshore. The drama began Saturday when two boys, ages 8 and 11, began shouting for help because they were powerless in the current. Mom Roberta Ursrey, family members, and others swam over to rescue them, only to become trapped themselves. At that point, people on the shore began to realize what was happening. Authorities opted to wait for a rescue boat, reports the Post, but beachgoers thought otherwise.

"These people are not drowning today," Jessica Simmons told herself, per the News Herald. "It's not happening." She grabbed her boogie board and headed toward the struggling swimmers with her husband amid shouts to form a human chain. An estimated 80 people heeded the call as Simmons and others fought the tide and towed the swimmers to the front of the human chain, which got them safely to shore. By all accounts, it was just in time. Ursrey's mother, 67, suffered a near-fatal heart attack but survived and is now hospitalized. Ursrey herself blacked out during the rescue. "I'm going to die this way," she remembers thinking. "My family is going to die this way. I just can't do it." She did, though, and now she's thankful for all the "angels" who saved her and her family.

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