Agnes Mends-Armstrong is not a strong woman physically, but an unknown arm was strong enough to pull her out of four feet flood waters Wednesday night during Accra’s June 3 fire, flood disaster.
The CAL bank employee wears spectacles to see properly, but surviving the disaster, she sees life in a whole new way. One of them is that strength is not a requirement for salvation or weakness a sentence for death in times of danger.
She told her story on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Friday for the final series of survivor’s story.
A heavy downpour shooed the young woman away into a restaurant at Kwame Nkrumah Circle as she tried to get a bus home from work that evening.
There, she found safety in numbers or so she thought.The rains intensified and along with it, her anxiety that this could be a long night away from home.
Gradually, every one waded out of the flooded restaurant for safer ground outside the eatery. Agnes remained in the restaurant.
Her only neighbours chairs and tables and as the flood showed no sign of waning, she stood on tables trying to stay a step above the flood in the restaurant.
Now she really needed somebody to help her off the table and out of the restraint by wading through waist-level flood waters.
Earlier, she had called her mother and a Reverend Minister also trapped by the floods inside the restaurant, promised Agnes’ alarmed mother to help her daughter get a taxi home.
If they only knew that transportation network had simply broken down. Flood become a demoted concern after fuel from the Goil fuel station some meters away mixed with the dirty waters.
A huge explosion distributed fire as it blazed across the waters entering anywhere fuel directs. The man who held her hand in the floods, reflexively let go to fight his own battle as fire caught him.
Agnes saw him in some few seconds as he sank into the water. He was making violent gestures to put out the fire on his clothes while inside water.
Agnes couldn’t swim and does not look combative enough to force her way out of a swimming pool for amateurs.
Certainly not tall enough like Kelvin Aggor who also recounted how his 6’2 feet frame vanished inside a flood leaving his head above the waters.
And when her spectacles was knocked off her nose inside the flooded restaurant, she the banker was deprived of 100% vision.
Slowly, she sank into invisible brown water, fearful, but convinced that “that was the end”. And for 152 others trapped in the downpour on Wednesday night, it was indeed the end.
Water had seized the entry of oxygen into her lungs and she lost consciousness as the flood appeared to construct for her, a watery grave inside the restaurant.
But suddenly, like the metallic frame of the protruding arm of bulldozer, someone, some arm dug in and pulled out Armstrong in one strong attempt and pulled her out of the restraurant.
She remembers how for the first time in her life, simple, monotonous and even boring breathing became one of life’s sophisticated miracles.
‘I can breathe, I can breathe’ was all she could mutter as a sense of eternal gratitude flooded her soul while standing in flood waters.
Agnes Mends-Armstrong got to know that an explosion at the fuel station some meters away was why she saw the sky turn orange while stuck inside the restaurant.
She could not see well enough or turn around quick enough to find the man or simply arm in shining amour. He was gone.
A colleague at work bumped into her when she found safety and helped her home.
“God was working that night”, Agnes firmly believes. And although she interacted with a number of people while inside the restaurant, it was someone she hadn’t seen who lifted her out of certain death.
Today, Agnes who is a Christian says her set of priorities has changed. She sees eternity as an instant possibility.
Everyday looks like bonus points you get while playing one of those Nintendo game of Super Mario. Only, she wasn’t super and she certainly didn’t win anything. It was unmerited favour, she believes.
Death can come at any uneventful a minute. Reading Wednesday’s newspaper where pictures of bereaved relatives at the National Memorial spark sorrow inside her.
For the woman who needed help from everybody else in the restaurant, her real help came from above.
Weakness is not a fear anymore if it can invite God’s omnipotent strength, she has come to realize. The same thing Apostle Paul was trying to communicate around A.D 55, when he wrote of God “my strength is made perfect in your weakness”.
Today marks the one year memorial of the awful 2015 June 3 fire, flood disaster that claimed over 150 lives in Accra last year.