Being in the right place at the right time can be viewed as luck. On the other hand, some believe having a guardian angel means an ethereal entity is watching over you, guiding and protecting.
On the evening of Oct. 15, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) Airman Jesus Quiroz and Aviation Support Equipment Technician Airman Apprentice Oscar Melendez Zelaya went running on the nearly mile-long Jordan Bridge, which is near their ship, the aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77), currently stationed at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
“We had talked about doing a five-mile run back and forth over the bridge. It’s a good form of cardio and we both could stand to lose a couple of pounds,” Quiroz joked.
What started out as a normal run over the 145-foot-high passageway quickly turned into an experience neither Sailor would ever forget.
“We were on our way back, noticed someone pulled their car over, and he got out to approach the edge of the bridge at its highest point,” Quiroz said. “My initial thought was that he might be having some car trouble, so we started heading over to help him out.”
To their surprise, what they suspected was an everyday misfortune was soon revealed to be a much different and dire situation.
“As we got closer, we could see that he seemed to be very upset and was crying,” Quiroz said. “It was something that could be expected for someone who was maybe having a bad day.”
The two didn’t expect the man to run straight for the ledge without hesitation, but in fact he did. The man continuously exclaimed that “he couldn’t do this anymore,” and then threw his phone aside. At that moment, they knew it wasn’t just a bad day or car trouble, but that he was ready to jump to his death.
Quiroz’s ability to read the emotional signs of a person in distress was step one in saving this person’s life. Luckily, both Sailors demonstrated a heightened attention to detail. Melendez Zelaya was more aware of the physical signs posted all along the bridge.
“One of the first things I noticed on the bridge, since it was my first time running there, was a sign that said to call a number if you were in crisis,” Melendez Zelaya said. “Once I saw him hop over the concrete divider that separated the sidewalk with the road, the sign with the crisis line suddenly came to mind. That’s when I knew exactly what we needed to do.”
The two Sailors cautiously ran toward the man, who at this point was perched over the ledge with his feet weightless in the air.
“Stop!” Melendez Zelaya shouted. “It’s not worth it.”
Melendez Zelaya’s first instinct was to keep a conversation going with the man in distress at any cost. Meanwhile, Quiroz used that opportunity to sneak behind him from the other direction with the intentions of grabbing him before he could jump.
“To be honest, when you get put in that situation, you don’t really think,” Quiroz said. “You just act.”
Without further hesitation, Quiroz made the heroic decision to put his own life at risk, and restrained the man from behind and pulled him to safety.
“For a split second I thought, ‘What if he accidentally takes me with him,’” said Quiroz, recalling his thought process. “But I said screw it, I need to save his life. I knew that if the roles were reversed, I would want someone to save me."
After Quiroz safely had the man away from the edge of the bridge and pinned to the ground to prevent him from getting back up, Melendez Zelaya called 9-1-1 for help.
“It was a flood of emotions during the whole situation,” Melendez Zelaya explained. “At first it was the fear for his life, then it was fear for my friend as he was attempting to save him. After we had him away from the edge, I just hugged the man and told him everything was going to be alright.”
The two Sailors stayed with the man until the police came and took control of the situation. Through the efforts of Melendez Zelaya and Quiroz, the man is alive and able to receive the treatment he needs.
“I just want anyone who has these thoughts to know they are not alone. There’s always someone willing to just listen,” Quiroz said. “There are plenty of resources out there for someone who is in pain. Don’t choose a permanent solution for a temporary problem.”
If you or anyone you know are having suicidal ideations, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or if you just need someone to talk to, don’t forget the ship’s chaplain, who will make time to sit down and chat with you no matter what.