Agnes Mends-Armstrong is simply not a strong woman – physically. But an unknown arm was strong enough to pull her out of four feet of flood waters on Wednesday night during Accra’s twin disasters of fire and floods.
Her story is about how strength is not a requirement for salvation or weakness, a sentence for death in times of danger.
As one of the survivors that day, she was a panelist on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show on Friday for the final series of survivor’s story.
Closed from work that evening, the CAL Bank employee was shooed away into a restaurant at Circle by the downpour. There, she found safety in numbers or so she thought.
The rains intensified along with her fear as gradually everyone waded out of the flooded restaurant for safer grounds outside the eatery.
Agnes stood alone on chairs and later on tables as she tried to stay a step above the flooded restaurant.
Others stood outside in the rain. She needed somebody to help her off the table and wade through waist-level flood waters.
Earlier, a Reverend Minister also trapped by the floods, promised Agnes’ alarmed mother on the phone to help her daughter get a taxi home.
With the benefit of hindsight, this was a pretty unrealistic promise because of the breakdown of the transportation system during the floods.
With a leaky fuel mixed with the flood, fire was sparked from an unknown source and soon there was violent fire. The flood water gave way to blood.
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 into the flooded restaurant, Agnes was deprived of 100% vision.
Slowly, she sank into invisible brown water, fearful but convinced “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 rain appeared to construct for her, a watery grave inside the restaurant.
But suddenly, like the metallic frame of a protruding arm of a bulldozer, someone, some arm dug in and pulled out Armstrong in one strong attempt.
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.
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.
God was working that night, Agnes said.
Today, her whole set of priorities has changed. She sees eternity as an instant possibility.
Every day looks like bonus points you get while playing one of those Nintendo game of Super Mario.
Only, she wasn’t super and certainly didn’t win anything. It was unmerited favour, she believes.
Death can come as uneventful a minute as even 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 inside 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”.