It was just another Saturday night of patrols in downtown Chattanooga when Officer Steven Meador got the call that would change his life.
“A caller called in and said there was a woman standing on the edge of the Market Street Bridge,” Officer Meador told the Washington Post.
Slamming his foot on the accelerator, Meador cut through the 11:30PM traffic and arrived on the scene in under 15 minutes.
Upon arrival, Meador surveyed the scene: a woman was standing along the rail, with a busy street on her left and a 100-foot drop into the water on her right. Her driver’s license was displayed on the ground- a classic “memorial” act of people who are prepared to kill themselves.
“If she jumped, she would have been killed,” Meador said.
Meador tried to shut down four lanes of traffic while simultaneously engaging the woman in conversation, a task that proved harder than expected- the woman had no interest in talking to him and traffic was stopped on the bridge.
“The only thing that I’m thinking is, ‘I cannot let this lady jump,’” Meador said. “I knew, most of the time, you can engage in conversation and de-escalate the situation, but she wasn’t having any of it.”
Meador asked for her name, she told him it was none of his business. He asked if she wanted a cigarette, she said she already had one. He seemed to be running out of options as the woman stood up on the concrete barrier.
“I’m gonna go now”, the woman said. “I’m done”.
As she turned to jump, Meador was about 20 feet away. He sprinted to her, yanking her by the back of her clothed and pulling her to the ground.
Slightly scraped up, the woman was transported to the hospital for her physical and psychiatric issues. Meador visited her later in the night.
“She was still upset, but I don’t think she meant it. I think she was just in a really bad state,” Meador said. “Personally, I’ve lost people to suicide before, and I can’t imagine the heavy weight of what would make someone make that decision.”
Despite a successful rescue, Meador can’t fathom what it would have been like if her were a step too short and a second too late.
“What if she’d jumped? What if I didn’t get there in time?” Meador said. “I’d have to live with that forever.”
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