MCKEES ROCKS’ OWN DAMAR HAMLIN tweeted this photo on Sunday, Jan. 8. It’s him giving the heart sign, with his parents by his side at a Cincinnati hospital.
Hundreds celebrate Hamlin’s recovery at Sto-Rox football field
When Dr. Sylvia Owusu-Ansah, EMS director for UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, began organizing a prayer vigil for Damar Hamlin last Tuesday, Jan. 3, it was just hours after Hamlin’s cardiac arrest that he suffered on national television, during the “Monday Night Football” game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.
CPR was performed, and a defibrillator was used to get Hamlin’s heart beating again on the field, but as he was whisked away in an ambulance, no one was sure what the outcome would be. The entire world was praying for Hamlin.
But before the prayer vigil began on the Sto-Rox High School football field on Monday, Jan. 9, the hundreds in attendance received word that Hamlin, the heart and soul of McKees Rocks, walked out of the Cincinnati hospital, hopped on a plane and flew back to Buffalo.
“PRAYER WORKS” was the message from Central Catholic director of communications and marketing Brian Cook Sr.
“Prayer works,” exclaimed Brian Cook Sr., director of communications and marketing at Central Catholic High School, at the now-prayer celebration on the Sto-Rox field. Hamlin was a student and football player at Central, graduating in 2016.
“We at Central Catholic are overjoyed to learn that the health of Damar Hamlin is improving…and he has walked out of the hospital,” Cook said to a rousing applause from the hundreds in attendance on a cold afternoon. “Now that’s exactly what we were praying for, that’s exactly what you were praying for and that’s exactly what the world was praying for. Prayer works.”
SUPPORTERS OF DAMAR HAMLIN, AT A PRAYER CELEBRATION, JAN. 9, AT STO-ROX’S FOOTBALL FIELD. (PHOTOS BY J.L. MARTELLO)
Many in the audience knew Hamlin personally, or his family. They watched him play football as a youth in the “Rocks.” They are familiar with his mother’s (Nina) daycare center, Kelly and Nina’s, also in the Rocks. They were past the point of devastation when they saw or learned of Hamlin’s episode on Monday, Jan. 2. But they got on their knees and prayed.
“It’s just hard to believe what happened to him,” said Toya Bailey, who is good friends with the Hamlin family. “But I’m thankful to God that he’s back. It brought the world together, literally.”
Bri Starr, who identified herself to the New Pittsburgh Courier as Hamlin’s godmother and cousin, called Hamlin “a star both on and off the field,” and McKees Rocks’ “hometown hero.”
Adrienne Roberts, of McKees Rocks, said that Hamlin’s recovery “shows that anything is possible. If we can come together for something like this, we can come together for the day-to-day stuff.”
The crowd displayed physical signs in support of Hamlin and his now-famous “3,” his jersey number. Many in the crowd wore shirts with “3” on them. Pretty much the entire National Football League wore “Love For Damar 3” shirts this past weekend before and during the games.
Doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center were elated to tell how much Hamlin was progressing in the days after the cardiac arrest. Hamlin was in the intensive care unit for a few days in critical condition, but by mid-week, Hamlin was able to communicate to doctors, asking through pen-and-pad, “Did we win?” “Who won the game?”
Doctors responded with: “You won. You won the game of life.”
Prior to Hamlin’s Buffalo Bills teammates taking the field to play the New England Patriots on Sunday, Jan. 8, Hamlin tweeted a photo of him in his hospital bed, wearing a “3” hat and a “Love For Damar 3” shirt, with his parents by his side. His caption? “GAMETIME!!!” Hamlin made his hands into a heart symbol in the photo.
TRE TIPTON was a teammate of Hamlin at Pitt.
Tre Tipton was a teammate of Hamlin at Pitt. Tipton is from Apollo, Pa., and knows Hamlin well. “Damar is life-changing,” he said at the podium at the prayer celebration, Jan. 9. “We live in a world where it’s becoming a Godless nation, and Damar got the whole world to pray….He has this way about him that any room that he walks into, you know he’s there, without question; D-Ham is in the building. All I can say about a man so special is, he’s not just ‘chasing millions’ (the name of Hamlin’s foundation), he’s reaching millions.”
DORIAN GLENN, an uncle of Damar Hamlin.
Dorian Glenn, Hamlin’s uncle, who many saw in Cincinnati in front of television cameras last week to inform the public that there was encouraging news about his nephew’s recovery, spoke at the prayer celebration on the Sto-Rox field, Jan. 9. “I think the lesson that I took from all of this is that we really got to see the power of prayer in full effect, and coming together in love. We can accomplish a lot more when we come together in love than when we stay divided in hate. Hate doesn’t do anything but create more hate.”
Glenn encouraged those in attendance to “take this time to love your family members, neighbors, co-workers, tell someone you haven’t seen in a while that you love them.”
SUPPORTERS OF DAMAR HAMLIN (PHOTOS BY J.L. MARTELLO)
Cameron Culliver, president of the Sto-Rox School Board, said at the podium that Hamlin showed “kids, adults, and the community that it’s OK to chase your dream and live your dream. Damar had a dream, he chased his dream and right now he’s living it. It’s a reminder that there’s no dream that’s too big or too small.”
McKees Rocks Mayor David Flick said that Hamlin does good everywhere he goes, not because he thinks he’s special, but “because he thinks we are special. I am 52 years old and I’m trying to figure out how I can be more like Damar.”
He also announced that from now on, January 9 will be a holiday in the borough of McKees Rocks. “It will be a day in which we think about how we can do some good…it will be a day where we think about Damar Hamlin and remember what is possible.”
Cook, the Central Catholic director of communications and marketing, added: “To Damar’s family, the Sto-Rox community, the McKees Rocks community…to those who knew him growing up, played with him on the football field…we will always stand in solidarity with you to make sure that Damar makes a full recovery and will be back in full force to be a champion for his community. Why? Because prayer works.”