A miracle? No, an act of human courage and solidarity

Many of you would have heard or read about the incredible rescue of people who had been caught in a rip tide off the coast of Florida. Two young boys Noah and Stephen Ursrey were initially caught up by the tide and when other people became aware of their distress and tried to help them, they too got caught in the strong tide so that in the end 10 people were in danger of drowning. There was no lifeguard on duty.

What happened then was inspiring. Dozens of other people formed a human chain and a couple of strong swimmers got to each drowning person and passed them back to safety along the chain.

Jessica and Derek Simmons swam past the 80 or so human links, some who couldn’t swim, and headed straight for the Ursreys, using surf and boogie boards to aid their rescue efforts.

“I got to the end, and I know I’m a really good swimmer,” Jessica Simmons told the News Herald. “I practically lived in a pool. I knew I could get out there and get to them.”

She and her husband started with the children, passing Noah and Stephen back along the human chain, which passed them all the way to the beach.

In the end, not a single person died. It is a tribute to our sense of a common humanity, a commendable example of people getting together and risking their lives to save others whom they did not know, and both the rescued and the rescuers appreciated that.

The Ursreys plan to meet up with Jessica and Derek Simmons once Franz is released from the hospital, but Roberta said she could give hugs to the dozens of strangers who rescued her family.

“It actually showed me there are good people in this world,” Ursrey told The Post.

In a Facebook post, Jessica Simmons expressed a similar sentiment: “To see people from different races and genders come into action to help TOTAL strangers is absolutely amazing to see!! People who didn’t even know each other went HAND IN HAND IN A LINE, into the water to try and reach them. Pause and just IMAGINE that.”

But then the mother Roberta Ursrey added the obligatory thanks to god: “It was beachgoers and the grace of God’s will,” Ursrey said. “That’s why we’re here today.”

I can understand the impulse of religious people to thank their god for anything good that happens in their lives lives but I do not see how one can view god in a benevolent manner in such an incident.

A few years ago, lightning struck a plane as it was about to land but no one died thanks to the quick thinking and efficient actions of the crew. Multiple news organizations covering the incident referred to it as a ‘miracle’ and credited god. But Jon Stewart on The Daily Show said that it was the lightning that was the ‘act of god’ and that it made more sense to think that god was trying to kill the passengers but was foiled by the diabolical competence of the crew. In this case, since the swimmers lives were threatened by another natural phenomenon of a rip tide, then it looks like here too god was actually trying to kill all of them but that plan too was foiled by the heroic and quick-thinking efforts of ordinary people. That interpretation makes a lot more sense and is the premise of that wickedly funny film The Brand New Testament.

In the video below are four examples (including this one) of ordinary people defying god’s will and saving the lives of others from acts of god.


  1. Matt G says

    You never hear anything like “damn you, God, for trying to kill my kids!”, do you?

  2. blf says

    “Dwarfs were not a naturally religious species, but in a world where pit props could crack without warning and pockets of fire damp could suddenly explode they’d seen the need for gods as the sort of supernatural equivalent of a hard hat. Besides, when you hit your thumb with an eight-pound hammer it’s nice to be able to blaspheme. It takes a very special and strong-minded kind of atheist to jump up and down with their hand clasped under their other armpit and shout, ‘Oh, random-fluctuations-in-the-space-time-continuum!’ or ‘Aaargh, primitive-and-outmoded-concept on a crutch!’”
       ― Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

  3. jrkrideau says

    o see people from different races and genders come into action to help TOTAL strangers is absolutely amazing to see!

    Why? It sounds fairly normal to me.

  4. lanir says

    I keep wondering why the response of religious people to narrowly avoided disasters isn’t to wonder whether this was more like Noah and the Ark or more like Job. In one, if you ignore all the awful bits for a moment, it’s basically a sorting mechanism. In the other, the omnipotent, omnipresent, all-powerful creator of the entire universe apparently just gets bored and decides to screw with you. Possibly because he just got bored.

  5. says

    Reginald Selkirk:

    Everything You Know About Surviving Rip Currents Is Wrong

    Huh. I just follow the water. The first rip that caught me, I was 9 years old. Pulled me down to the bottom, waited until it spit me back up, then just swam with it. I was deposited a couple miles from where I went in, but it didn’t take long to walk back. The only advice that actually works for being caught in a rip is don’t panic, but very few people work on that one.

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