LOWELL (CBS) – “Please, there’s hope. I’m a stranger. I know I am. But, I am here to help. I see you. I hear you.”
Those are the words Lowell woman Francis Gonzalez uttered over and over again as she tried to help a man who police say was attempting to take his own life.
It was a chance encounter at the Church Street bridge in Lowell, overlooking the Concord River. Gonzalez believes it was really divine intervention.
“I believe that God was preparing me for that day,” she said.
Gonzalez and her daughters saw the man on June 19. They were driving home using a different route than usual when Gonzalez says her daughter noticed him first.
“She noticed a man on the bridge but he was over the railing. So she goes, ‘Mom, oh my God, look at that guy. I think he’s going to jump. He needs help,’” she said.
Gonzalez parked the car and went over to the bridge where she approached the stranger gently.
“I looked at him and I said, ‘Sir, I’m here. Are you OK?’,” Gonzalez said. “And he just started crying.”
Gonzalez said she tried to call 911 when she realized she left her cell phone in the car. That is when she signaled to a woman walking by to call for help.
Police and an ambulance arrived but Gonzalez stayed with the man. He eventually came back over the railing of the bridge.
“I gave him a big hug and I said, ‘You’re going to make it. You’re going to make it. Thank you for giving yourself another chance,’” she said.
Police said the man was transported to the hospital for a mental health evaluation. His identity was not released for privacy reasons.
Gonzalez hopes the experience will bring hope to others in despair. She also says it had a personal impact on her.
“I appreciate life but it made me appreciate life even more,” she said.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, resources to help can be found here.