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To the Rescue

NIAGARA FALLS, NEW YORK

Joe Bennett has done everything there is to do in his nine years with the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission. But nothing had prepared him for the situation he faced in late May: a man preparing to jump off the Whirlpool Bridge that crosses the Niagara River between the United States and Canada.

"I was just coming into work and got a call from the Canadian maintenance side. My boss and I went out there and checked," says the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA)/ AFSCME Local 1000 steward. Bennett and his supervisor were the first two people to approach the man who had climbed over the bridge's railing. "He had his toes on a two-inch beam and was holding on to the railing with his hands," Bennett recalls. "He was praying. He'd look up at the sky and lean back and pray." At one point, he closed his eyes for about a minute.

At first, the would-be rescuers attempted to talk the potential suicide out of jumping. When he remained perched on the ledge, Bennett decided that he would try to grab him and pull him in.

A Canadian police officer arrived and began questioning the man. When the man turned his head to answer, Bennett lunged, grabbing him in a bear hug.

Bennett is strong, but he was thankful that adrenaline had kicked in. "The man was lower than we were," he says. They pulled him over the railing and put him into an ambulance. Bennett never did learn who it was or how things turned out.

"It was pretty emotional afterwards," says Bennett. "It felt real good."

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