“I heard what happened today, you’re a hero!” everyone said that day. “I’m not a hero, stop calling me that.” I said to myself while walking the empty, silent hallways that day. I was in my third year of high school, an eleventh grader. I have already been through a lot of things for my age. This moment, however was the one that changed me the most. We hear stories, and see on television about people that were there at the right time and place to help people who were about to let go of their life. I never knew that I would be that person, at the right moment, holding onto a friends hand, ready to let go.
Before this event occurred, I, myself was a very lost, heavy-hearted person. For about eleven years of my life, I have suffered from depression. Eleventh grade, I was the loneliest, dealt with a lot of self- hatred, and thoughts of taking away my own life. Some days, I would be filled with joy, but most days, I was thinking of ideas on how to commit suicide. My whole life changed when I came across Michael in the stairwell on the balcony with his legs dangling over the railing. In between class changes, I was heading up to English class, I was walking up the stairs with my friend, Nick. Michael was sitting, silently crying, tears running down his cheek. He was sitting on the balcony, with his body turned, ready to let go. I quickly dropped my bag, and ran over to Michael, and I held his hand. As I holded his hand, I saw his arm covered with cuts, cut after cut. Nick was on the other side of me, we were talking to Michael. Trying to stay calm. I simply say to Michael, “Hey Michael, how are you, how about you come on down?” He turned his head to me, and just grinned, looked me straight in the eyes, and turned away. His eyes were pitch- black, demonized, filled with pain. Michael started crying, so I told Nick to go get Mrs. Gee. I knew I couldn’t let go of his hand. While holding his hand, people are rushing up the stairs, staring at Michael and I.
Whispering, stopping, looking. My eyes were kept on Michael. By this point, Mrs. Zerbe, Mrs. Gee, and Mrs. Martin are all standing around us, trying to get Michael to come down safely. Sobbing, Michael keeps on repeating, “I just want the pain to go away, I just want to stop living, I want to die.” I told Michael, that this pain is temporary, you won’t be living like this forever.” I repeatedly told Michael how much he is loved, and how important he is in the world. I looked down, and below is Mr. Congo, Mr. Johnson, and Mr. Lee, arms out, ready to catch him. Before I knew it, Michael swung his legs around, looked back at all of us, looked down at Mr. Congo and smiled. He lifted his hands, ready to let go, before he could move, Nick and I pulled him off the balcony and onto the floor. My adrenaline was flowing, my heart was pounding, and I wanted to cry. Michael quickly stands up, looks at Nick and I in disappointment. He's up against the wall, looks directly at me with his pitch black eyes, and looks at me with anger. He looks as if he's about to attack me for pulling him off the balcony. His eyes then change back to his original blue eyes, and falls to his knees, sobbing. I fall with him, and hold him in my arms. Him crying, and me praying for strength.
Eventually he gets up, and he is demanding that he goes back to math class. Of course, we can’t let him go back, after what just happened. So we make a suggestion that we go back to Mrs. Gee’s room, and just talk or don’t talk. If he wants, he can write how he feels, and see if we can help him. We all sit there in silence. Nick is crying, and I’m in shock of what had just happened. Mrs. Martin then wanted Nick and I to step out and go back to class, but how were we supposed to go back to class after what was probably the most traumatic thing to experience? I can’t sit in class and just pay attention. I end up leaving, and the first people I see is Mr. Congo and Mr. Johnson, I ended up sobbing in their arms. I heard later in the day that Officer Haggerty took him to a rehabilitation center. I walked the halls that day, my heart in sorrow, my brain in a fog. Everyone saying how I was a hero, how I saved Michael’s life, how glad that I was there in the moment. The truth is, I didn’t feel like a hero, I felt the complete opposite. I was filled with remorse. I was filled with pain, not only Michael’s pain, but mine as well. I kept on thinking, “That could’ve been me.”
My life changed that day. After staring death right into the eyes, I got a new perspective of what life truly means, and the purpose of my life. It showed me how valuable my life and others lives are. I wish I could say after the incident, I recovered from my depression, but you don’t just recover from depression or any mental illness. And how was I supposed to recover from this specific incident especially. After the event, I suffered from secondary trauma. I had nightmares, and night terrors every night. I wasn’t able to walk up the same stairwell where the event occurred. I stopped eating, and stopped taking care of myself. I blamed myself, maybe if I talked to Michael more, sat with him more. During the event, I was completely silent. And I regret that. I wish I could've said something to help him. As time went on, Michael came back to school from being in evaluation. I couldn’t even look at him, I was so traumatized from what had happened. They say time heals, but what really healed me was to see that Michael was getting better, he was smiling more, and interacting more. Seeing him walk across the stage, and graduate is what healed me. I stopped having nightmares and night terrors, I began taking care of myself more. And truly I started loving myself more. I started seeing life in a whole different way. Something inside me changed that day. Seeing Michael in that state of mind, reminded me of myself. I think God put me in that certain situation because it was a wakeup call for me. It showed me that despite all the pain or hurt I endure, suicide is not the answer, living in pain only makes you stronger. There’s a reason why Michael didn’t jump, there’s a reason why I didn’t jump. People's words have such an impact on other people. Asking people if they’re okay when they seem like they aren’t, complimenting others, might save someone's life. Sitting down at lunch with someone who is sitting alone, will brighten their day.
I think about Michael and what happened everyday. I wonder what would happen if I wasn’t there, would things end up differently for him? I think about Michael now, and if he’s okay, what his future will look like. People say I saved Michael’s life that day, but in all honesty, he saved mine.