A UPS driver is sharing how he became an likely hero after after using his truck to save eight people from the floodwaters caused when Ida slammed the tri-state at the beginning of September.
Nick Dirla was on Route 22 in Bound Brook, New Jersey, as he wrapped up his shift that evening, when he got stuck due to the rising water. Things got bad quickly around him, he said.
"I start to see carnage essentially, cars (with) water up to the doors," he told NBC New York, describing an intense scene that unfortunately was all too common throughout the tri-state that evening. "I see a woman on top of her car, this was the first woman I'd seen standing on top of her car, totally water logged."
Dirla said the woman was shouting for help, but he was stuck too — though he had a big truck, and knew what he had to do.
"At this point, the water was rushing down the highway like a river. And her car if like moving, floating," he said. Thankfully Dirla was able to get close enough where he could help her, as she " got a foot on the wheel and grabbed the mirror, and (I) yanked her in" from her moving car.
Dirla said the water level was well above his wheel well. But that didn't stop him from being able to rescue seven others that night, including an older coupe and a Bound Brook first responder, all of whom huddled in the back of the truck.
"We're broken down, we're pulling people through the windows," he said. The 22-year-old once labeled as class clown in high school tried to put people at ease by making them laugh. But soon their situation became serious, as they faced a new problem.
"Inside the truck where we were standing, water rose up to our ankles and we said if we don't get out now, then we're gonna be in worse shape than we were before," Dirla said.
The group decided to leave the truck, linking their arms as they waded through chest deep water until they hit dry land. That's when they started knocking on doors until they found a stranger to take them in.
That stranger also happened to be a UPS driver.
"They gave us warm clothes, put our clothes in the dryer for us, made us food," Dirla said.
Only in his third month on the job, Dirla is now being hailed a hero.
"What am I gonna do, let people float away? I really felt that was the only thing to do," he said. "If I wasn't there, what would have happened. I'd rather not think about it."