Ethics Hero: Angela Martin, As St. Paul Strangers Prevent A Suicide

Angela Matin

Remember Raymond Zack?  In 2011, 50-year-old Raymond Zack waded into the surf at an Alameda, California beach and stood calmly in the 54-degree water, apparently waiting to die. His suicide took nearly an hour, but eventually he drowned, with no rescue attempts from any of the 75 San Franciscans, including firefighters, who gathered on the shore to watch the entire tragedy. I am so used to reading about bystanders allowing desperate people, sick, wounded or otherwise in peril, to perish because they “didn’t want to get involved” that a story like this one, the opposite of the Raymond Zack tragedy from St. Paul, Minnesota, comes as a shock.

How sad is that?

Motorist Angela Martin  saw a woman  climb onto a concrete wall and scale a chain-link fence above Interstate 94 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Martin could have continued driving, but she acted immediately, parking her car and calling 911. But she sensed there was no time to lose. Martin ran over to the woman, who  having climbed over chain-link fence was now clinging to it with her fingers above heavy highway traffic.

“ No, honey. Don’t do this,” she shouted. Martin told reporters that the distraught young woman kept repeating,  “My mom don’t love me. My mom don’t care for me.’”

“No, we love you, ” Martin told her. Martin reached through the links  and grabbed the woman’s shirt and  belt, just as the would-be suicide released her grip so she could fall to her death. Other motorists on the overpass saw the unfolding scene and came to Martin’s aid, and joined her in reaching through the fence to keep the woman from falling.

As she held on to the shirt,  Martin saw a small young woman passing by on foot, and shouted to her to go down to the interstate and try to stop the traffic. “She took her shoes off and started to run like she was in track,” Martin said. The tiny barefooted woman picked up a construction barrel and dragged it onto the freeway, as two men followed her to assist. The three shouted at the speeding cars to stop, as they pointed to the dangling woman.

The traffic halted, and a driver of a tall van drove underneath the woman dangling from the bridge so it could break her fall. St. Paul police officer Vlad Krumgant told reporters that he and his partner were headed west on I-94 when he looked up and saw a woman hanging from the overpass, being held by a “giant mass of people.” Krumgant radioed for the State Patrol, paramedics and a fire engine. When he arrived on the overpass, he saw a group of strangers holding on to the woman’s T-shirt through the fence, with everyone clutching a piece of it.

Lucky Rosenbloom, another bystander with twenty years’ experience in police and corrections work, saw the cop in the middle of a crowd and rushed to assist him. Rosenbloom grabbed the woman under her left armpit. Another officer grabbed a bolt cutter from his car and cut a hole in the fence, and she was pulled through to safety

The crowd applauded, hugged, shook hands and cheered as paramedics arrived,

Why did a collection of onlookers combine their efforts to save this woman’s life, while Raymond Zack was allowed to die?

Often the catalyst is leadership. Just one person who takes action, accepts responsibility and behaves ethically can cause a cacophony of ethics alarms to ring through a group, a community, and even a nation. Angela Martin was that crucial individual in St. Paul. If she had been on that beach watching Raymond Zack die slowly in 2011, he might be alive today.

12 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Angela Martin, As St. Paul Strangers Prevent A Suicide

  1. Minnesota nice. It’s a real thing. And I say that as an East Coast transplant who moved to the Midwest 8 years ago and discovered that – for the most part – people here are genuinely kind. This story doesn’t surprise me at all.

  2. Correction please: If there had been any San Franciscans present when Zack died on Robert Crown Memorial Beach, nearly 20 miles distant from San Francisco, in the City of Alameda, California, at the opposite end of San Francisco Bay, they probably would have rallied some likely looking beach-standers and gone in after him in the first place, in spite of all the non-responding firefighters and police (belonging to the City of Alameda), if for no other reason than assuming the professional rescuers would be galvanized by their activity. It was a weirdly anomalous situation indeed.

    Since you mention San Francisco, however, you should know, relative to suicide and the Golden Gate Bridge, that a large group of rescue-trained volunteers called the Bridge Angels walk the span of the Golden Gate daily from one end to the other on alert for physical and verbal warning signs of suicide (there are more than 15 of them), talking to those who seem to be at risk, reporting to the reactive emergency crew, ready to intervene as necessary. One of the Bridge dangers is traffic accidents caused by overzealous drivers who stop or pull over suddenly at sight of someone standing alone, looking out over the water, contemplating their navals below. Suicide barriers are going up this year following directives from the SF Board of Supervisors. It’s about time. Some think that the barrier reduce the suicide rate drastically; others believe it will just result in a rise in a spate of un-PC gun purchases.

    • Yes, now I remember the complaints about that same issue with the original post. It was indeed the City of Alameda, not San Francisco. That mistake carried over from my initial source.

      I guess I should fix it in both posts now..

    • San Franciscans must be a touchy lot, since Alameda is effectively a suburb and demographically and politically the same. Geographically, it’s good to make the technical distinction, but I don’t see any other kind.

      Also, Zach’s Wikipedia page says that there were dozens of civilian onlookers watching from the beach, assuming that the pros would handle it. But I’m sur they were all vile Alamedans.

      • Alameda IS a suburb, but not of San Francisco. It is a suburb of itself.

        You may have been confused by its having inherited all of San Francisco’s diverse demographics. All but Filipinos; Filipinos emigrated to Daly-City-not-on-the-Bay, which is not a suburb either in spite of its head-on geographical connection to SF, but a large village of very nice people. On the other end of the city, Alma and Maggie, two juggernauts of deep tunnel boring machines, are resting and rusting after their efforts to construct the boondoggle of a two mile Central subway which has already dismantled square blocks of Chinatown housing and businesses in preparation for the latest gentrification. Erected by dint of planning and building permits the voters never got wind of or say in, the dozens of truly boring new-built hi-rises sit on the graveyards of old neighborhoods they crushed and cast greedy shadows on adjacent blocks, particularly in the Mission District, threatening the Hispanic community. As costs rise, demographics descend into an ethnic meld of yellowhitebrown middle class holding on together, wondering what happened to their lovely city (the mid-city black neighborhoods were razed decades ago by their black mayor who turned his interest to building a new ballpark instead, down where the poor black folks resided). On an average weekday, nearly 300,000 commuters invade the workspaces, and more than 150,00 tourists spend a daily average of 27 million dollars conventioneering and touristing. Nearly 7,000 homeless share the benefits of city services with a few low income housing complexes. Corporate business is doing extremely well. No Google-bus or Twitter-van, moustachio-ed car or Banana Republican has run over a pedestrian yet.

        Uh unh. Nothing like Alameda.

        In terms of politics, however, perhaps you were thinking of other Alameda suburbs-not-of-San-Francisco … such as Oakland or Berkeley?
        Nah.

  3. “And I am reminded, on this holy day, of the sad story of Kitty Genovese. As you all may remember, a long time ago, almost thirty years ago, this poor soul cried out for help time and time again, but no person answered her calls. Though many saw, no one so much as called the police. They all just watched as Kitty was being stabbed to death in broad daylight. They watched as her assailant walked away. Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.”

        • Oh, thanks at damn bunch, HT. I was hoping no one would bring up Kitty Genovese. Turns out Philk57 has some truth on his side. The whole story, or as much as could be gathered from it many years after the fact, differs on many key points (though not on most of the main ones) from the oversimplified, overdramatized, factually uncorrected tale now cemented into social history and psych textbooks. After reading through all 17 googled pieces on it — because each one left gaps and questions — I am not intending to take up more space than all of Alizia’s comments put together to explain why Genovese’s murder is only peripherally pertinent to the Zack case. Even the psychology of “the bystander syndrome” is called into some question in an APA article. Go check it out for yourself: it’s a fascinating story and a lesson in not trusting “first responder” reports, such as newspapers put out in “Extree, Extree, read all about it” editions … or say, if a person of great power and trustworthiness intimated publicly that such-and-so were innocent or guilty without having any evidence of either … or most of what turns up on the Internet. Most telling, perhaps, would be getting hold of the film “Witness,” a documentary ten years in the making that garners most of its facts from Kitty’s brother Bill as he was investigating the past for himself.

          Clues: The murder (and rape) didn’t take place in broad daylight, it was three o’clock in the morning, and only parts of it were seen (and those from different angles) by few, because the majority of neighbors (not 38) were earwitnesses. But that’s just to whet your appetite and spare me a little time for sleep.

          • Simple bottom line on Kitty: She was being murdered and was screaming for a long time. Many, many people heard her screaming, and did nothing, for various reasons.

            The fact that rationalizations can be concocted to explain the phenomenon in this case—it was night, people assumed someone else would call, screams in the night were not uncommon in that neighborhood, it’s still a perfectly good example of apathy and the willingness of human beings to talk themselves out investigating. The fact that the nit-pickers and rationalizes have managed to make some people think the story is a myth is itself an ethics tale.

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