Last week, the incredible and inspiring story of Florida beachgoers coming together to rescue a family caught in a powerful riptide captured the hearts and minds of people around the country and around the world. On Monday, the family that nearly drowned sat down for an emotional interview with the couple who started the (literal) chain reaction that saved their lives.
On July 8, Roberta Ursrey and her family were enjoying a day in the surf and sun at Panama City Beach near the Miller County Pier. She was cooling off in the water along with her husband, mother, sons, and nephews when things took a turn for the worse. Ursrey was on her way back to shore when she realized the rest of her family had gotten trapped in a strong current. Unwilling to watch them drown, she swam back out to meet them and found herself caught in the riptide as well.
Back on the beach, Jessica Simmons and her husband Derek watched the horrifying situation unfold. She immediately grabbed a boogie board and headed into the surf with Derek close behind. Others Good Samaritans took notice of the distressed family and followed the Simmons’ lead—spontaneously forming a human chain, with many wading in water up to their necks in order to reach Ursrey and her relatives.
During an appearance on Good Morning America on Monday, Ursrey recalled the terrifying moments she feared the worst for her and her family, as she tearfully thanked the Simmons for their selflessness.
“Y’all were my angels that day,” Ursrey said through tears. “Y’all were my angels that day that saved my family. Without y’all, we wouldn’t be here.”
“That was the most humbling part for myself, was to see all different nationalities, people that don’t speak the same language, races, shape, size, religion – it didn’t matter at that point” Derek explained.
Watch the interview below:
— Good Morning America (@GMA) July 17, 2017
“We didn’t have a rope, we didn’t have anything. So the only thing that could come to my mind was arm-to-arm,” Derek said of the daring rescue. “I’m yelling, ‘Guys! Grab arms! Grab wrists! We’ve gotta make a long enough path to get them!’”
Ursrey’s mother suffered a heart attack during the incident and was hospitalized for several days. She has since been released and “by God’s grace” is expected to make a full recovery. While her sons, Stephen and Noah, were unable to make it to New York for the sit-down, they recorded a video message lauding Jessica and Derek as “heroes.”
“Thank you for showing so much courage and being there for us,” they said. “We couldn’t thank y’all enough and you are our heroes.”