80 Strangers Formed A Human Chain To Save A Drowning Family.


Beachgoers in Panama City Beach, Florida, were surprised just how strong the current was on Saturday, July 8, 2017.

It's easy to assume that we live in a scary, hateful world. Everyday the news is filled with stories that show the worst in humanity. It doesn't help that we barely connect with one another, living our days consumed with our needs and responsibilities.

This may be what we are led to believe, since our humanity is tested everyday of our lives. Whether it's the simple act of stopping your busy day to give someone directions, complementing someone out of the blue, or simply smiling to a complete stranger. These actions may appear trivial but they matter.

People may live in a fast-paced world but when someone needs help, the natural reaction folks have is not to hide but rather to assist, even if the individual or persons are complete strangers.

Roberta Ursrey, her husband, two sons, mother, and nephews were enjoying their day at the beach. Ursrey left the water, assuming her sons, Noah, 11, and Stephen, 8, were close behind her.

She realized they were farther from shore. Worried, she walked down the beach.

When she heard their screams, she knew she had to swim back into the ocean. The boys had been pushed further out on the water while they were on their boogie boards.

Roberta Ursrey

"They were screaming and crying that they were stuck," Ursrey recalls

"People were saying, 'Don’t go out there,'" she says. Despite the warnings and her fear, she dove right in along with the rest of the family.

"I honestly thought I was going to lose my family that day," 34-year-old Ursrey admits. "It was like, 'Oh God, this is how I’m going.'"

Unfortunately, the rip current took them further into the ocean as well. In total 10 people were trapped in 15 feet of water; four adults and two children from one family, and four additional swimmers trying to help.

Luckily, Jessica and Derek Simmons were walking along the beach when they saw people all looking into one direction.

"I automatically thought they had seen a shark,” Simmons told the Panama City News Herald. "I ran back to shore and my husband ran over to them. ... That’s when I knew someone was drowning."

Jessica Mae Simmons

Simmons jumped on a boogie board while her husband started a human chain to help the swimmers.

Simmons remembers telling herself "these people are not drowning today. It's not happening. We are going to get them out." The human chain stretched 100 yards with about 80 people holding arms.

Rosalind Beckton

"I got to the end, and I know I’m a really good swimmer," Simmons reveals. "I practically lived in a pool. I knew I could get out there and get to them."

The first pair to be rescued were Noah and Stephen. They were passed down through the human chain until they reached the shore.


By the time Simmons reached Ursrey, the mom was barely able to keep her head above water. She says Simmons told her to keep going. It took about an hour to get all 10 swimmers on dry land.

Ursrey's 67-year-old mom, Barbara Franz, was the last person to be rescued. She had told her son-in-law and nephew to let her go. "That’s when the chain got the biggest," Ursrey says. "They linked up wrists, legs, arms. If they were there, they were helping."


"It was the most remarkable thing to see," Simmons adds. "These people who don’t even know each other and they trust each other that much to get them to safety."

Franz suffered a massive heart attack and an aortic aneurysm in her stomach but is now in stable condition. One of the swimmers stranded, Brittany Monroe, had a panic attack but has been released from the hospital.

Roberta Ursrey

When everyone was rescued beachgoers applauded and cheered.

Simmons calls the experience, life changing. "To see people from different races and genders come into action to help total strangers is absolutely amazing," she shared on Facebook. "People who didn't even know each other went hand in hand in a line, into the water to try and reach them."

Roberta Ursrey