Jevon Lewis, Aristel Saint-Joy, and Lloyd Nelson will receive the Badge of Honour for Gallantry for their courageous efforts in rescuing five persons, including a baby, after heavy rains flooded roads and buildings in St James in November of last year.
The three will receive their award at the National Honours and Awards Ceremony, scheduled for Monday (October 15), National Heroes Day, on the lawns of King’s House.
Mr. Saint-Joy, a 22-year-old barber at Groomer’s Barber Shop on Union Street, Montego Bay, who hails from Anse-d’Hainault, Grand’Anse, Haiti, moved to Jamaica in 2014. He resides in Spot Valley, St. James, with his wife and two young daughters.
Thirty-eight-year-old Nelson, also a barber, lives at Hart Street, Montego Bay, and works at Shantia’s Salon (two doors down from Saint-Joy’s barber shop). He is the father of three children, and sometimes moonlights as a singer.
For his part, 27-year-old Lewis, who hails from Catherine Hall, Montego Bay, has been making a living as a fruit vendor on St. James Street, Montego Bay, for five years and is the proud father of a four-month-old son.
Wednesday, November 22, 2017 seemed like a regular rainy day to all three gentlemen. However, what they thought was a light drizzle turned into a lot more.
“I was at work waiting for the rain to stop, but then I looked outside and I noticed the water was rising and persons were being evacuated from nearby buildings,” Mr. Saint-Joy told JIS News.
To the alarm of everyone in Groomer’s Barber Shop, the water started coming closer and closer to the shop’s door.
Two doors down in Shantia’s Salon, Mr. Nelson also noticed the rain falling heavily, but thought nothing of it until water started rising and threatened to flood the salon.
“The rain was falling, but no one really thought there would be a flood. The rain fell for hours and hours until I saw the water rising, but people still did not take it seriously. When the water got to the steps (of the salon), persons still did not get alarmed, but then the water got to the doorway and persons decided that now was the time to evacuate,” Mr Nelson states.
As the rain continued to fall, flood waters continued to rise, so intense was the flooding that the staff at the salon retrieved their valuables and were forced to find refuge on the roof of the building.
Mr. Nelson, however, stayed back to save some appliances at the salon, wading in and out in waist-deep water to save as much as he could. However, a chilling cry stopped him in his tracks.
“Someone on the roof cried, ‘ova deh suh, ova deh suh!’ pointing across the street to the 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,” Mr. Nelson informs.
The Barber notes that he saw the young woman and her children leave earlier, but did not know they had returned.
Mr. Nelson tells JIS News that he did not spare a second thought, and swam his way towards the auto shop, dodging floating cars and debris on the way across, determined to rescue the woman and her children.
Meanwhile, Mr. Lewis, who usually sells on Deer Lane but found himself on Union Street that day, also heard the cries from the persons on the roof and swam in the direction of the auto shop, joining Mr. Nelson, who was already on the scene.
Mr Nelson says he tried opening the door to the auto shop to take the trapped persons 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 tells JIS News.
“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 inside – a little girl and boy – for me to take out,” Mr. Nelson recalls.
Meanwhile, as Mr. Saint-Joy’s colleagues made their way to the roof of the Barbershop, he and another co-worker stayed behind to secure some of the shop’s appliances. However, something caught their attention across the street.
“I saw a rescue attempt taking place across the street, so my co-worker and I offered our assistance,” Mr Saint-Joy states.
He then swam across the street and proceeded to assist Mr. Lewis and Mr. Nelson in the rescue of the women and children, helping them to climb to the roof of the auto shop and a nearby wall.
Except for one of the ladies sustaining a large wound to her foot after stepping on broken glass from the shop’s door, any other injuries sustained by the five persons were minor.
Mr Nelson states that since the rescue last year, he has been called a hero. However, he does not see himself that way, as he did what any well-thinking person would do – saved another human life.
“When everyone started to call me a hero, I did not feel like one. I just knew I was doing something good, and it’s a good feeling to have saved them and, hopefully, someone would have saved me if I was in that position,” he tells JIS News.
Mr. Saint-Joy states that he did not think twice about his heroic deeds, as he believes that is what he was meant to do. “I feel like it’s my job to help people,” he states.
On their pending National Honours, all three men expressed gratitude for the recognition.
“I feel good about it and I really appreciate it,” Mr. Saint-Joy tells JIS News.
Mr. Nelson states that during a walkthrough to assess the damage to downtown Montego Bay, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, commended him on his bravery.
A few weeks later, one of the women he rescued wrote to the Prime Minister detailing his 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, and I was very happy and grateful,” Mr Nelson expressed.
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, and I really appreciate it,” Mr Nelson notes.
For his part, Mr. Saint-Joy says he is looking forward to taking his family to the awards ceremony. Mr. Lewis has opted to take his mother, while Mr. Nelson stated that he will be making the journey to Kingston alone.
When asked if they would go through their daring rescue again, dodging floating cars and debris in murky, dangerous waters, all three men gave a resounding yes.