Recording and recounting heroic rescue at Niagara Falls

The last of the Old Men of the Mountain’s breakfasts for the year 2017 was held on Tuesday, Dec. 26, at Kim’s West Wind Diner in Preston Hollow on a real winter morning! Some of the OFs left before 6 a.m. in wind-driven snow, with temperatures in the low teens.

Kim was there, ready to go, as the OFs showed up. This scribe hopes she lives close by.

As life goes on, day by day, minute by minute, not only the OFs but no one else ever knows what to expect and what might happen in the next breath. The phrase “Johnny on the spot” is so true.

With today’s technology, it is possible to record history as it happens regardless of where anyone is at the time. This includes the OFs. Now there are moments in time caught forever on disc, or film, or on the phone.

One OF recounted a story that happened to him and his wife at Niagara Falls. The OF was going to meet his brother at the falls and he was there with plenty of time to kill.

He and his wife were in their hotel room when they heard sirens. The couple looked out of their hotel window and saw fire trucks and an ambulance stop in front of the hotel and park at the edge of the falls.

The OF said to his wife, “We have time so let’s go down and see what is going on.”

When they arrived at the scene, they saw a man (who they think was attempting to commit suicide) had jumped in the river to go over the falls.

This guy apparently had second thoughts and he had grabbed onto a branch of a tree as he was about to go over the falls. The OF said he watched the whole proceeding until the end and recorded it all on his camera.  

The amazing part was in the beginning of the rescue. The powers that be had actually stopped the falls on the American side and, while that was going, on a fire company shot two lines across to where the man was dangling.

Then a couple of firefighters used these lines to climb out to where the man was. All the while this process was going on, a large helicopter with double blade towers approached and by this time one of the firefighters had reached out and grabbed the guy.

At the same time, a basket from the helicopter was on the scene where they were. The firefighter pushed the guy into the basket and fastened him in and the chopper crew hauled him up.

The chopper then brought the guy to an ambulance by the fire trucks and the emergency medical technicians placed him in the ambulance and drove him away to the hospital.

This OF had been an EMT for years and he had a chance to speak to the firefighter who caught the guy and put him in the basket. The OF asked him how he did that so fast and without resistance.

The firefighter told him it was timing. When this firefighter saw the guy who was dangling on the tree branch look up at the chopper (which was lowering the basket), the guy’s attention was totally fixed on that procedure, so when the basket arrived the firefighter just pushed him into it and that was that.

When it was all over, a special team simply returned the water to the falls. If anyone showed up 10 minutes later, they never would have known anything had gone on; there was no fire truck, and no ambulance, just people standing at the railing watching the water go over the falls.

Some of the OFs commented on how well these rescue people must be trained, and how much this rescue must have cost. Helicopters do not come cheap.

Stopping Niagara Falls from flowing — that can’t be nickel-and-dime stuff. Then you have those two guys going out on lines over what is now about a two-hundred-foot cliff — you wouldn’t catch this OF doing that even when he was young and stupid.

“Johnny on the spot” with camera at the ready — so easily done today.

Lost and found

As the OFs are old, and getting older by the day, Tuesday morning’s breakfast brought out how many of the OFs set things down and two minutes later can’t find them. The OFs were telling how all of them have this malady but the best one was how one OF said he couldn’t find his hearing aids this holiday season.

The OF said he thought he knew where they were and everyone in the family was looking for them. Over and over in the same room, moving things, even looking on the floor (because there were quite a few wrappings all around) and the OF thought they might have been thrown out when the kids started picking up.

After at least an hour of everyone looking and getting ready to go through the trash, one of his kids said, “Dad, they are right in your ears!”

That is like looking for your glasses and they are on you head. In both cases, panic sets in pretty early when items like that are lost.

One OF said, “I think I keep losing my wife but, darn it, I turn around and there she is.”

Much more was discussed at this breakfast and this scribe could fill up a page of the paper; however, we will save those for another time when the OFs become so redundant that it is hard to come up with something new.

Those OFs who are the toughest and who made it through driving snow, questionable roads, and the dark morning with bright shining stars were: Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Rev. Jay Francis, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier and guest Winnie Chartier, and Amy Willsey, Harold Grippen and me.