Perhaps one of the most miraculous stories ever told took place at Niagara Falls on Saturday afternoon, July 9,1960. A man from Niagara Falls, New York took two children for a boat ride in the upper Niagara River. The boat developed motor trouble, capsized into the river and all three were thrown into the upper rapids. The man went over the Falls and was killed.
At the same time, the 17 year old girl was plucked 6m (20ft) from the very edge of the Falls and her seven year old brother, wearing only a life jacket and a bathing suit, went over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. He came out alive to tell his story. His name was Roger Woodward.
Luckily, one of the scenic Maid of the Mist boats was just making its turn below the Falls when one of the crew spotted the bright orange life jacket. The veteran Captain Clifford Keech, maneuvered his boat so that the crew could pick up the boy on the starboard side. After two unsuccessful throws, a life preserver landed within reach of the crying youngster. Lifted safely on board the vessel, Roger mumbled his concern about his sister. Within the hour, word spread of this Niagara miracle. Roger was whisked to the Greater Niagara General Hospital in Niagara Falls, Ontario where he remained for three days with a slight concussion.
Another miracle was occurring at the brink of the Horseshoe Falls on the American side of Niagara Falls at Terrapin Point. Seventeen year old Deanne Woodward was being furiously swept towards the brink of the Falls. Hundreds stood at the brink of the Falls almost paralysed with concern for the plight of this young girl.
Two men, both from New Jersey but unknown to each other, sprang into action. John R. Hayes, a truck driver and an auxiliary police officer from Union, New Jersey climbed over the rail, stretched out his arm and pleaded with Deanne later said that his pleading voice made her swim harder and she caught his thumb just before going over the Falls. Fearful the current would break his hold on the young girl, he shouted for help, Climbing over the railing, John Quattrochi of Pennsgrove, New Jersey cam to the rescue and the two pulled the frightened teenager to safety. Once on land Deanne's concern was also for her brother. Quietly, John Quattrochi whispered "Pray for him"
With only a cut hand, Deanne was rushed to a hospital in Niagara Falls, New York where she learned of her brothers miraculous fate. The body of the man who had taken them on a boat ride, Jim Honeycutt, was freed from the depths of the Niagara River four days later.
Roger Woodward returned to Niagara Falls, Ontario on the thirtieth anniversary of the accident and spoke to the congregation at the Glengate Alliance Church. The audience was hushed as the 37 year old told how the 12 foot aluminum fishing boat equipped with a 7.5 horsepower motor was caught in the fast flowing current, capsizing after hitting a shoal and breaking a pin in the engine.
Roger Woodward with his sister Deanne Woodward Simpson
Recalling his thoughts from the rapids he said, "For me there was initially pure panic, I was scared to death. I can remember going through the rapids and being thrown against the rocks and being bounced around like a toy in the water and being beaten up pretty badly. My panic very quickly shifted to anger and the anger was from seeing people running frantically up and down the shoreline and wondering why they wouldn't come out and rescue me."
Roger Woodward then said that after fear and anger came peace. "There was a time I thought I was going to die and my seven years of life literally passed before me and I started thinking what my parents would do with my dog and my toys and had really given up at that point and felt I was going to die that afternoon.
Roger Woodward did not die that afternoon and has made several trips with his family to Niagara since the miraculous incident.
In 1994 Roger Woodward and his sister Deanne Woodward Simpson once more travelled to Niagara Falls to retell their story on a half hour Canadian television special. Joining Roger and his sister were the gentlemen, now both in their eighties, who rescued Deanne from above the Falls. For Deanne it was an extremely emotional meeting. She had not seen both gentlemen for over 30 years, nor had she since stood at the edge of the Falls that had almost claimed both her life and that of her brother.
Reflecting on the accident years later, Roger Woodward said, "It wasn't the hand of fate, it wasn't the hand of luck, it wasn't the spirit of Lelawala, it was the spirit of the living God that saved my life that day and saved my sister and gave us hope that one day we would come to know him".
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