This is a long post and the story below happened earlier tonight.
What happened from my perspective
It was about 6:30PM and 25 degrees outside. I was running on Falls Bridge and could see a car was parked in the middle of the one lane with no one was in it. There were two women along the other side of the bridge looking into the water and yelling.
I ran over to see what was happening while the women just kept yelling “Keep swimming! Keep swimming!” I looked in the water and couldn’t see much because it was dark, but eventually spotted someone in the water. You could faintly hear her yelling “I can’t swim!“.
I ran around the bridge where another runner was looking in. I asked him what happened and he said she jumped in herself. I then asked in sort of a panic, “Well, should someone like, jump in and save her?!” to which he said “I don’t know, we may not want to lose 2 people” which was sort of a morbid answer and basically framed the situation as life or death. He also mentioned that someone had called 911.
I hopped over wall and started heading down next to the river to see if going in to get her was realistic. Another guy was down there more or less doing the same thing. She kept repeating the same three things:
“I’m so cold”
“I can’t swim”
It not as if you can walk in and out of the river, there’s basically a 5 foot ledge that you have to get up. I got as close as I could and was just yelling at her to come towards me while contemplating if jumping in would make the situation better or worse. She looked to be roughly 18 years old.
30 seconds later I heard sirens and soon after a rescue worker with a flashlight came down to meet me. The water was shallow enough for her to stand but she wasn’t making it up the ledge by herself and we couldn’t really get to her.
A few more rescue workers showed up over the next few minutes and eventually lowered a ladder down for her to climb up which she barely managed to do. Then they took her to the ambulance right away.
There were now probably 10 rescue people down there, a fire truck, an ambulance, a few cop cars, and a dozen on-lookers. It was a very human moment climbing back to the path and honestly I began tearing up.
I talked to the police briefly then ran home.
Reflecting on what happened
For the ~3 minutes where the rescue workers weren’t in sight, the question was simple: Do I jump in or not? I’m just going to write exactly what I felt.
I was running through all the scenarios of me jumping in and the possible outcomes. She was already making her way over to me and could stand, though was still barely moving. Most importantly, if I jumped in, I wouldn’t have been able to get her out. I would’ve had a ~120 pound iceberg that I’d be unable to lift out.
Because of that, jumping felt self-righteous. In the moment, it felt like I would’ve been doing it just so I could tell people I did it, when it likely would’ve complicated things.
The only benefit to jumping in would’ve been IF she went fully under water, then I could’ve helped her, but fortunately that didn’t happen. And if she did go under, I could’ve jumped in then.
Although jumping in seemed stupid, staying out felt completely helpless. I felt guilty. This girl is literally dying, looking at me yelling “help me“, while I’m sitting there watching her and a dozen other people are just staring in awe. All I could do was keep talking to her.
The final outcome was good, she was saved. But it’s situations like this where, if things go wrong, you look back and wonder “what could I have done differently?”.
Say she did go under and ultimately died. I’d look back wondering why the fuck I didn’t just jump in, get a little cold, a little wet, and a little bloody to save her life.
I felt very weird the entire run home.