Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Running Experience: Helping a Stranger in Need

Preface – I hesitated to share this story, but ultimately I thought sharing would help me, and hopefully encourage others to stop and offer help when they see someone in need. It’s also a good reminder, especially with all the political nastiness going on, to take care of each other.

I have to admit I’ve never been a fan of the phrase, ‘everything happens for a reason’. However, last night my two passions – running and suicide prevention – collided in a way that makes me rethink my position on that expression. I can’t stop switching between ‘what ifs’, and ‘thank goodness I was there’.

I was running (yes, when all the crazy sh*t in my life happens) up 16th St NW in Washington, DC, which is a very busy street during rush hour. I normally would have turned on a side street about a mile in to hit Rock Creek Park (RCP), but for some reason, I kept going. As I got closer to my other common RCP trail entrance, I again, for no good reason, decided to keep going. My revised plan was now to hit the 3rd entrance, about 4.5 miles up from my apartment.

Before I made it, I saw and heard a bus driver honking and trying to get the attention of a young male lying on the sidewalk. His eyes were closed, his feet hanging ever so slightly into the road, and he wasn’t moving. I went over to see if he was ok, saw his eyes twitching, and told the bus driver I’d look after him. The driver took off, but I quickly realized the kid was NOT ok.

Quick side note: We were at the corner of Missouri and 16th ST NW, which is where 16th St goes over Military road, and therefore forms a bridge that is pretty high off the ground. The part of the bridge facing 16th as a big fence, but the on-ramp (Missouri) does NOT have a fence.

As I tried to wake him, it was very clear something was wrong. Since his eyes were moving fast, I thought he was in REM sleep, but after trying really hard to wake him, I grew concerned. Some of the cars waiting for the light to change offered to call 911, and I said I thought it was a good idea – he was not responsive, and it was 93-ish degrees.

Then, all of the sudden, he got up. I turned to the guy in the car calling 911 and said I thought he was ok, but then I looked up and saw him heading right to the bridge (without the fence), where he proceeded to climb up the wall.

I ran across the street, and grabbed a hold of him just as he had started to move over the other side of the bridge. It took all my effort to pull him down, as he was totally flexed and pushing toward the edge. All I could see were cars below, and from what I remember in the heat of the moment, at least one person yelling at him not to jump.

When I got him down, I let go and he started walking down the on-ramp (which meant the height of the bridge was also decreasing). I then became concerned he was on some crazy drug, or possibly having a psychotic episode, so I stayed back to keep myself safe, but also close enough to make sure he was OK. He eventually moved back to the top of the on-ramp (and thus close to the bridge he almost jumped off), but then walked in front of the bridge that had a safety gate in front of it, and then passed out again.

Feeling better about his safety (in terms of access to the bridge), I began to look for help since I didn’t have my phone. Almost as soon as I turned up the street, I saw a man running towards me pointing at his phone. He was a Lyft driver who had witness me pull the kid down from the bridge.  

He called 911, and a firetruck appeared almost 30 seconds later. At this point I was shaking like crazy, but was slowly able to calm down once the medical crew was checking on him, and the police cars began to arrive. I also noticed from where I was standing that there was a big patch of grass below where he was about to jump, not just a road filled with cars. I don’t know why that made me feel better – I guess just knowing he might have survived had I not been fast enough? In any case, I’m glad I didn’t have to find out. 

The Firemen gave the all-clear, and the police tried to talk to the young man, who was now in handcuffs. I stayed back to give another cop my statement, and walk him through the locations of each incident.

The emergency response crew was amazing, and so was the driver who called them. He even offered to give me a ride home, which I politely declined so I could run back and process.

I still can’t stop thinking about that young man, but I am SO THANKFUL that I randomly, for no known reason, decided to keep going up 16th St, and to stop and see if that man was ok. I now just have to believe that he’s going to get the help he needs, and that he’ll be ok.

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