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.