At first, Madeline Mitchell kept walking when she saw a woman near a railing over the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul. But things didn’t seem right.
The woman was barefoot in the rain that day in May and looking down at the river.
Mitchell thought to herself, “If something happens and I had the opportunity to stop and I didn’t, I would regret that,” she said Wednesday, after St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell honored her and two other women.
Mitchell returned to the woman and asked if she was OK, but she didn’t answer.
She spotted Mary Guerra, a fellow budget analyst for the city of St. Paul who was also leaving work for the day. Guerra also tried talking to the woman and Mitchell called 911.
But the woman put her legs over the railing.
“I know sometimes we are very guarded in our interactions with strangers, but in that moment something must have kicked in because I just went and grabbed her,” Guerra said.
Guerra and Mitchell put the woman into a bear hug and pulled her back over the railing, but she struggled with them. Michelle Simmons, who had also just left work, came to help.
Simmons, who works for Viking Security as security supervisor at the Ramsey County Courthouse-St. Paul City Hall, held the woman on the ground until police and paramedics arrived. They took her to the hospital for help.
Axtell presented the three women with the Chief’s Award.
“We celebrate today ordinary heroes … who step forward to help strangers in need,” he said.
Axtell also honored five Upper River Services workers who worked together to save a man who jumped into the river in May. They have been recognized by the Ramsey County sheriff’s office and the U.S. Coast Guard, as well.
Mitchell told the people at Wednesday’s ceremony it was fitting they were gathered on World Mental Health Day.
The saves are “nice things to celebrate, but” Mitchell said it’s tragic “that it gets that far. We need to do better … about increasing our mental health services and preventing these things before they get to the point where interventions like this have to happen.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 800-273-TALK (8255).