“One Bridge, Two Heroes
On May 5, my 17-year-old son, whom I’ve called ManCub since he was a compromised 10-pound 11-ounce newborn in the NICU, nightcapped with friends at Hotel RL after the North Central High School senior prom in Spokane, Washington. His dad, Joe, was on pickup duty and called me at 2:30 a.m. to verify Christopher’s pick up location because he couldn’t find him at the (other) Red Lion hotel (three blocks away), and Christopher wasn’t answering his phone after a text about a half hour before stating he had heard someone call for help and was going to the nearby bridge to check it out. Joe and I stayed on the phone until he made it to Hotel RL and, again, couldn’t find our son anywhere obvious. We hung up our phone call so Joe could hustle around the hotel property, trying to locate Christopher while dialing his number over and over.
I reminded myself Christopher was a big kid, a capable, strong, smart kid and that he was going to be okay. The rush of possibilities hacked my head as I waited at home to hear back from Joe. Fortunately, Christopher and Joe connected about 20 minutes later–we were stunned to hear what had happened in the space of time he had been ‘missing:’
Christopher ‘knew’ he had a second to decide to either go toward the cry for help or to turn away and head toward the arranged meeting place with his dad, but before he could decide, he found himself running toward the bridge. As he came upon the bridge, he began to see the outline of a person perched up on the third of four railing bars with her body leaning over the top, looking down toward the raging river.
She wouldn’t acknowledge his presence through a fencing barrier, so he leapt over the concrete barrier alongside the roadway. He used a calm voice and asked her what was happening. He was terrified he ‘would have to watch her leap off the bridge,’ but he pushed forward, hoping to get close enough to ‘catch her feet’ if she went over the rails.
Eventually, she looked back at him with a ‘terrifying look in her eyes.’ He asked her how he could help. She shared stories of years of abuse and a father who abandoned her. Christopher listened, validating her state of being by saying he couldn’t imagine such horrible things happening to him and although he hadn’t experienced anything like that—or knew the pain the way she was feeling it—he could understand why she would want all that pain to go away. And he didn’t judge her for feeling hopeless.
She stepped down off of the railing, sharing she didn’t trust men and would attack them if they approached her. Christopher thanked her for not attacking him, which made her smile. He shared a little bit about himself so she could feel like he wasn’t ‘some stranger she had no connection to.’ She couldn’t believe he was only 17 and still in high school. Or that he had been celebrating his senior prom that night (he was still in his tux).
He said he wished he could comprehend the pain she was feeling, but there was no way he could. And he knew that she had a special opportunity to help others who feel the way she does because she truly understands it. And if she chooses to live, she could help other people choose to live, as well.
He went to give her a hug and then apologized because he remembered she was apprehensive around men. She said it was okay and gave him a ‘pretty big hug.’ He had his hand on the top railing as they were saying goodbye. He made her promise she would always remember a stranger could see how strong she is, he made her promise she would always choose to live. Soon afterward, they walked off the bridge together and as she walked on, Christopher crossed the street to go back to the hotel to meet his dad.
When asked if he knew how proud I was, and why I was emotional about it, he said: ‘Not really. I mean, if you hear someone calling out for help, you can’t turn away from that.’
As someone commented on my Facebook post the next day: ‘it took two heroes to work through those moments that night, two heroes walked off that bridge.’ Our family sends continuous thoughts to the young woman and we all hope she has been choosing to live every day since then.
After sharing this story on Facebook, we received messages from people who had considered suicide and who struggle with depression. They wanted Christopher to know what it meant to know someone cares, that someone would reach out to a stranger and ask them to choose to live.
We’ve received messages from those who have lost loved ones to suicide, as well. They wanted Christopher to know how much it meant to them to know he prevented the traumatic loss they had to live with (I’m included in this group, having tragically lost a teenage brother to suicide when I was in high school). They wished their loved ones would have had a Christopher step into their family member’s final moments and potentially alter them. We continue to see and feel the magnitude of his actions and their ripple effect of positivity, awareness, hope and change.
May we all behold a little ManCub in each of us.
To my amazing son, to the brave young woman–and all those who choose life every day, and to communities–and a world–who truly cares.”
[If you’re thinking about hurting yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help is out there. You are not alone.]
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stephanie Regalado, 47, of Spokane, Washington. Follow her journey on Instagram here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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