On November 18, it all became too much for a Gadsden woman, but luckily the Gadsden police were there.
She had embarked with members of her family, and one of them had told her something unfathomable: that she had to kill herself.
“I have decided to accept it,” the woman, who did not give her name, said at the Gadsden City Council meeting on Tuesday.
Gadsden police found her where Locust Street ends at the river, and the railway bridge stretches over busy Albert Rains Boulevard and beyond to the Coosa River.
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sergeant. Danny Haas, Bureau Alec Burgess and Officer Chris Phillips were on the bridge within 90 seconds of being called about a stalled or stuck vehicle there. When they arrived, the woman was on the bridge above the Albert Rains Boulevard traffic lanes.
They managed to catch up to her and grab her before she decided to jump.
Haas’ first words to her after getting her to safety were, “I love you.”
It was a message that made all the difference.
“They helped me. I never knew nobody cared,” the woman said at the council meeting, where the three officers and others were recognized for their duties beyond of the call.
“They showed me they did it,” she said.
On the bridge that day, Burgess reiterated Haas’s words and told him, “I don’t like heights, let’s get off this bridge together.”
“From the video, it was both devastating and heartbreaking to hear how, at that exact moment before the police were caught, a human being felt unloved and underappreciated to the point of having dramatic consequences,” a Facebook post from the Gadsden Police Department detailing the incident, without identifying the person involved, said.
Officers brought her to firm ground and the Gadsden Fire Department administered ‘first class treatment’, the message said, as the woman asked officers: ‘Why do you all care what happens to me? Nobody else cares.”
“We care,” Haas told him. “We are here because we want to be here.”
The woman was taken to a local hospital for treatment. She reported that she was doing better – that she had turned the responsibility over to God and was still in consultation.
She said she met one of the officers who told her they would be recognized at the council meeting, and he invited her to come. She hesitated but decided that she would not let the officers putting themselves in danger to save her.
His words at the council meeting were met with enthusiastic applause. It was, noted one observer, “a beautiful improvised moment” of bravery on his part. She got lots of hugs and several people spoke to her after she spoke, checking in on how she was doing now.
The incident on the bridge was not the only act of compassion and care recognized by the mayor and council.
Ford read a commendation for Officer Amber Brown and Chris Smith for their actions Sept. 24 when they responded to a person in mental health crisis in Noccalula Falls. They found the person behind the barriers above the gorge and were able to convince the person to get to safety. The individual was transported to a local hospital for treatment. They got dangerously close to the throat, he said, as they tried to help the person in crisis.
Fird also credited fire commanders Ryan McGlaughn and Kelley O’Bryant for coming to the aid of his former business partner Phil Hodges when he suffered a heart attack. Hodges called 911, Ford said and McGlaughn, who is also a member of the Whorton Bend Fire Department, heard the call and went to Hodges’ aid.
Ford said McGlaughn told the sick man they couldn’t wait for an ambulance, and they rushed him to hospital, ensuring faster treatment.
Board members expressed their appreciation to all recognized first responders for their efforts.
988 is a three-digit national helpline for people in crisis, who may be having suicidal thoughts. By calling or texting 988, you will get in touch with mental health professionals.
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