Three men from St James will receive the Badge of Honour for Gallantry for rescuing five persons, including a baby, after heavy rains flooded roads and buildings in St James on November 22 last year.
The three are 27-year-old fruit vendor Jevon Lewis from Catherine Hall, 38-year-old barber Lloyd Nelson from Montego Bay, and Aristel Saint-Joy who is a 22-year-old barber born in Haiti but living in Jamaica since 2014.
The men will receive their award during the National Honours and Awards Ceremony on the lawns of King’s House on National Heroes Day, October 15.
This is how the rescue unfolded:
Nelson was at his salon trying frantically to save some appliances as the water level rose.
A chilling cry for help stopped him in his tracks.
He noticed some people were trapped at Union Street Auto Shop.
“I knew there was a young lady working there who recently had a baby, plus she had a young daughter as well. Both were with her in the building,” Nelson explained.
He told the state-owned Jamaica Information Service that he swam towards the auto shop, dodging floating cars and debris, but determined to help the woman and her children.
Nelson tried to open the door to the auto shop to take the trapped people out, but to no avail.
“I tried to use a gas drum that was at the doorway to break the glass door, but it was not working. So I took my merino (undershirt) off, wrapped it around my hand and broke the glass,” he added.
“When I got access, I was handed the baby first; the baby girl seemed at the time to be about five months old. I realised there were still two women and two children – a little girl and boy – inside for me to take out.”
Nelson was joined by Lewis, then by Saint-Joy.
They helped the women and children to climb to the roof of the auto shop and a nearby wall.
Except for one of the ladies sustaining a large wound when she stepped on a broken glass at the auto shop, any other injuries sustained by the persons rescued were minor.
Meanwhile, Nelson stated that, since the rescue last year, he has been called a hero. But he does not see himself that way, as he did what any well-thinking person would have done – save another human’s life.
“When everyone started to call me a hero, I did not feel like one,” Nelson said.
“I just knew I was doing something good, and it’s a good feeling to have saved them. Hopefully, someone would have saved me if I was in that position.”
Nelson further stated that Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who later visited Montego Bay to assess the damage caused by the flooding, commended him for his bravery.
One of the women he rescued wrote to the prime minister a few weeks later, detailing the courageous acts.
“A couple weeks later, I got a call from the prime minister’s secretary, who told me I was going to receive a National Award. I was very happy and grateful,” Nelson said.
Meanwhile, all three men have seen the persons they rescued – all of whom continue to express gratitude to the heroes.
“I have seen the mother of the baby; she told me thanks; and the child’s father not only thanked me but also bought me a top-of-the-line shear. I really appreciate it,” Nelson said.
When asked if they would go through their daring rescue efforts again – dodging floating cars and debris in murky, dangerous waters – the three men gave a resounding yes.
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