CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. -- It's not often someone who breaks into a public building is hailed as a hero by police, but this was no ordinary break-in.
As a deadly blizzard raged in the Buffalo area Friday evening, a security alarm at Pine Hill School in Cheektowaga alerted of breaking glass. With the storm too dangerous to investigate, it was left to worry about at another time.
Once the blizzard subsided, an officer headed to the school to find a broken window, but nothing else seemed out of place.
"They thought that maybe the damage was caused by the hurricane winds 'till they saw a handwritten note left on a table," Cheektowaga Police said.
The note began with an apology: "I'm terribly sorry about breaking the school window and for breaking in the kitchen…"
The note's author said he got stuck in his truck late Friday evening as the storm raged and was sleeping inside with two strangers "just trying not to die." There were seven other older adults also stuck and out of fuel, so his only option was to break into the nearby school.
"I had to do it to save everyone and get them shelter and food and a bathroom."
He signed the note: "Merry Christmas, Jay"
Officers checked the school's surveillance video to find people taking care of people.
"There was a freezer full of food, but no one touched it. They only ate what was necessary to stay alive," police said. "They used the gym for kids to play and pulled the smart boards out of the classroom to watch the news for updates."
Police said once the storm subsided and the group could leave, "you would have never known anyone was there," adding the group cleaned up all the rooms and plugged the smart boards back in.
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"The group of amazing people took care of each other and the building they found shelter in," police said.
They added no charges would be filed; instead, officers wanted to thank and recognize Jay "for his going above and beyond actions that saved lives."
The police chief later got in touch with Jay to express gratitude for his actions and said the group is now like family and is planning another get-together – but in the summer.