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California Assemblyman Helps Prevent A Suicide

Audio

Aired 1/15/10

Usually...when we skip lunch, we save a few calories, or a few bucks. It's not often we can save a life. But San Diego North County Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher took a lunchtime run along the American River in Sacramento this week...that's what happened. Assemblyman Fletcher is with us on the phone "live" from Sacramento.

Usually when we skip lunch, we save a few calories, or a few bucks. It's not often we can save a life. But Nathan Fletcher took a lunchtime run along the American River in Sacramento this week, and did just that, saved a life. Nathan Fletcher is a representative for San Diego's North County, the Assemblyman joins us live now by phone from Sacramento. Good morning, sir.

NATHAN FLETCHER: Good morning, Dwane, thank you for having me on.

DWANE BROWN: Absolutely, tell us what happened.

FLETCHER: Well, it wasn't -- I think there's a lot of credit to go around. I came out of the Capitol, and it's been raining, foggy, really dreary in Sacramento, and being a San Diegan I get kinda spoiled. I just had an overwhelming desire to enjoy the sun and go for a run, and as I headed out on the bike path, near downtown Sacramento out near Sacramento State, there's a bridge crossing the American River. And I noticed a gentleman sitting on the outside of the fencing out on the ledge, on the railing, and as I got closer I noticed he had a rope, he had a rope tied around his neck and it was connected to the bridge. And it just struck me as terribly tragic, and such an awful thing, and so I kinda climbed out there, and just talked to him for a little bit. You know, it's tough times. People are really going through a lot right now, and this is certainly someone who is down on his luck, and I think he just needed some folks to talk to. It wasn't just me, I was actually joined by a homeless guy named Squirrel, who was phenomenally comforting and funny, and I think really played a big role in helping Donny.

BROWN: He also had an interesting comment that he made to the man who was about to commit suicide, the homeless guy.

FLETCHER: Yeah, he did. You know, we were talking and at one point Squirrel said 'Hey man, I'm homeless, and I'm not jumping off a bridge.' He said, you know, a good day for me is getting a meal and staying dry, and he said so it can always get better. I think more than anything, Donny needed some folks to listen and kind of understand what he was going through. At one point, I just remember saying, he's kinda describing it, and I said 'You know, Donny, there is some good news,' and he said 'What could possibly be good?' and I said 'It doesn't sound like your life could get any worse.' And he started laughing, you know, I said it can only get up from here, and my homeless friend Squirrel talked to him, and I shared some of my experiences from serving in combat. I spent several years really trying hard not to die, and a lot of innocent people had their lives taken from them, and it is a precious thing, your life. And it's certainly hard, and difficult, but it can always get better. And so after about 20 or 30 minutes, he says you know, 'Okay, maybe you're right, maybe we'll give it another shot,' and he came down.

PAMELA DAVIS: Assemblyman Fletcher, have you had any more contact with the man, or with his family?

FLETCHER: No, I haven't, I haven't. The police were there, and I think they took him for some evaluations, and I really hope that he -- I mean, the real hero is not someone who stops on a bridge and takes 20 minutes out of their lunch, you know the real heroes are those mental health professionals, the people who are hopefully helping him now. And people who man the crisis prevention lines, the professionals who really know what they're doing. And in so many ways, you know, Squirrel and myself just happened to be there. And if it hadn't been us, somebody else along the bike path certainly would have stopped and would have talked to him. But it's my hope now that he gets in a professional environment, and really I mean those folks are amazing, and get some assistance, because he has a lot of problems. But it can get better for him.

BROWN: Well, as a lawmaker in Sacramento, has this changed your feelings or approach to what you do on a day-to-day basis?

FLETCHER: Well, I think on a lot of mental health issues, I think having served in a combat zone recently, in a lot of ways influences my thinking and my understanding of the importance of those types of programs. And in a lot of ways it kind of served to reaffirm the priorities, and what really matters in life. You know, on a daily basis, whether you're in media or politics, or you know whatever your line of work, you can get really caught up in career and those types of things. And I think it's a good reminder of kind of the intangibles in life, your family, your faith, your friends. So in some ways it was kind of a good reality check, that we kind of take for granted a lot of lessons we have sometimes. So in that sense it was a good experience.

DAVIS: Ah, that's a good note to leave us on. Thank you, Assemblyman Fletcher joining us from Sacramento, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

FLETCHER: Thank you.

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