- Three Montego Bay men to get Badge of Honour for Gallantry
When floodwaters ravaged sections of Montego Bay last November, three men – Jevon Lewis, Aristel Saint-Joy, and Lloyd Nelson, braved the overwhelming waters which cost the city millions, to rescue five persons, including a baby. As a result of their selfless heroics, on Monday, October 15, National Heroes Day, the men will each receive the Badge of Honour for Gallantry on the lawns of King’s House at the National Honours and Awards Ceremony.
On November 22, 2017, as each man went about his respective duties across the city, Saint-Joy and Nelson both barbers, and Lewis a fruit vendor, none had imagined that the light drizzles that started early in the day would have changed the course of their lives forever.
“I was at work waiting for the rain to stop,” explained Saint-Joy, who hails from Anse-d’Hainault, Grand’Anse, Haiti, and now lives in Spot Valley, St. James with his wife and two young daughters. “But then I looked outside and I noticed the water was rising and persons were being evacuated from nearby buildings,” revealed the 22-year-old, who moved to Jamaica four years ago.
For thirty-eight-year-old Catherine Hall, Montego Bay resident, Nelson, who works at Shantia’s Salon, just two doors down from Saint-Joys place of employment (Groomer’s Barber Shop), he too witnessed the early drizzle, but thought little of it.
“The rain was falling, but no one thought there would be a flood,” the father of three, who sometimes moonlights as a singer, explained. He continued: “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.”
The situation, however, soon became clearer to those in Nelson’s shop, and others close by, that the continuously pouring rain was no ordinary Wednesday downpour. Not long after, when staff of the salon had to retreat to the roof of the building with their valuables, Nelson found himself wading in waist-deep waters.
As he busied himself in the dangerously and rapidly rising waters, attempting to save the appliances he could, a chilling cry stopped the barber 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,” Nelson recalled. He further revealed that he had witnessed the young woman and her children leave earlier, but did not know they had returned.
Almost impulsively, Nelson made his way out of his shop, and in the waters, which had washed away several cars, began swimming towards the auto shop.
Moved just the same by the crying voices of the women on the roof pointing to the auto shop, 27-year-old Lewis, who had found himself on Union Street that day, did not hesitate. The well-known fruit vendor, who usually sells on Deer Lane, began swimming almost immediately, joining Nelson, who had already made his way to the scene.
While those events took place, Mr. Saint-Joy’s colleagues made their way to the roof of the barbershop, but he opted to stay back, along with another co-worker, in an attempt to salvage some appliances. Like the men drawn to the voices in distress before him, however, Saint-Joy too soon recognized the women and children in danger.
“I saw a rescue attempt taking place across the street, so my co-worker and I offered our assistance,” Mr Saint-Joy stated.
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.
A few weeks later, after successfully pulling off the daring rescue, all three men went back to their regular lives. That would not continue for long, however, as one of the grateful women who were rescued wrote a letter to the Prime Minister. Now, the men, who have all been hailed as heroes, will now officially be recognized as such in the coming days.
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.