Angela Martin knew something was dangerously wrong Monday evening when she saw the stranger climb onto a concrete wall and scale a chain-link fence high above busy Interstate 94 in St. Paul.
She quickly parked her car on the Dale Street overpass and called police. Then she raced to the woman, who had climbed over the fence and was clinging to it above the whizzing traffic, pleading with her not to jump.
“ ‘No, honey. Don’t do this,’ ” she pleaded. “She just kept saying, ‘My mom don’t love me. My mom don’t care for me.’ And I kept saying, ‘No, we love you.’ ”
Martin, a Roseville mother of two and grandmother of six, was not going to stand there and let the woman die. “ ‘Lord, help me,’ ” she said to herself in that moment. “I looked at her as one of my own.”
She wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Within minutes, Martin and a diverse group of people would pull together to save a stranger.
As the young woman turned to the traffic below, she let go of the fence. But a moment earlier, Martin had reached through the fence and grabbed her white T-shirt and then her belt, holding on with everything she had.
Other motorists stopped on the overpass, raced over and reached through the fence to help Martin hold the stranger. She yelled to a passerby to go down to the interstate and try to stop the traffic.
“She took her shoes off and started to run like she was in track,” Martin said. The woman was tiny, but she picked up a construction barrel and dragged it onto the freeway, with two men following her to help. “She threw it on the road and yelled to people to stop,” Martin said.
It worked. Traffic halted. Martin yelled out to the driver of a van to back up underneath the woman dangling from the bridge in hopes of breaking her fall if it came to that.
St. Paul police officer Vlad Krumgant and his partner were headed west on I-94 when he looked up and saw a woman dangling from the overpass, being held by a “giant mass of people.”
He called for the State Patrol, paramedics and a fire engine as he and his partner raced to the overpass.
He arrived to see a half-dozen people holding onto the woman any way they could, her T-shirt woven through the fence as everyone clutched a piece of it.
‘The worst’ … wasn’t
A half block away, Lucky Rosenbloom, whose family has run one of the last surviving black-owned businesses in St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood, heard the commotion and walked toward the group. From a distance, it appeared to him that a lone officer was surrounded by a chaotic crowd.
“I’m thinking the worst … and thinking I’m going to help this cop,” said Rosenbloom, who has 20 years’ experience in police and corrections work. “I’m also black.”
“I could hear sirens that are miles away,” he said. “I figure whatever is going on here, [this cop and I] going to be doing it together.”
As Rosenbloom reached the overpass, it became clear what was happening: Police officers and the crowd were working together to save a would-be jumper. Rosenbloom moved in to relieve those tiring of holding on. He grabbed the woman under her left armpit.
She “was sweaty and slippery,” he said. “Everyone was determined they weren’t going to let go of that lady for any reason.”
An officer grabbed a bolt cutter from his car and began snipping a hole in the fence. Then, said Krumgant, “We collectively pulled the woman back through.”
‘A beautiful thing to see’
As paramedics cared for the woman, the crowd clapped, shook hands and slapped high-fives.
“To see police and people in the community spontaneously working together, it was a beautiful thing to see,” Rosenbloom said. People of all races and backgrounds, commuters and the homeless, stood shoulder to shoulder, working with officers in blue.
“It was something good to see when all you see is this negative stuff going on,” he said.
As the crowd began to disperse, Rosenbloom watched the officers chatting with those who remained. “They talked with people to make sure everyone was OK before they jumped in their squads and took off,” he said.
Said Krumgant: “It’s an awful thing to see and be a part of.” But moments like these bring people together, he said.
“I wasn’t born in this country,” said Krumgant, who immigrated from Latvia. “It reminded me why I joined the Marine Corps and why I always wanted to be a police officer — to bring people together.
“It was cool to see the connection between a group of strangers that never even would have said ‘hi’ to one another as they passed,” he said. “We’re all part of this community.”
Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788