Even now, more than a week after pulling a would-be jumper to safety from the edge of the Tappan Zee Bridge, Nicholas Doddo, a 21-year-old college student, is still trying to come to terms with what happened.
“I’m still struggling to find words for it,” said Doddo, who is from South Orange, N.J. “The whole thing was tragic. I’ve been absolutely humbled by the experience.”
Doddo, a business administration major at the University of Hartford, was on the phone with his girlfriend while stuck in stop-and-go traffic on the bridge Friday, July 15, at about 7:30 p.m., when something caught his eye.
Seemingly out of no-where, a young man in his early 20s was out on the roadway, heading toward the barrier.
Doddo said the man was running frantically, as if he was being chased.
“I’ve never seen anyone run harder,” Doddo said, recalling the events of the evening.
It quickly became apparent to onlookers that the young man had no intention of stopping at the side.
Without hesitation, he began climbing over the barrier, seemingly intent on plunging into the Hudson.
The moment, clearly surreal to observers at the scene, left most too stunned to react.
With barely a moment to consider his options, however, Doddo put his car in park on the bridge and began running across the lanes on the highway, toward the other man.
Doddo said the would-be jumper never even looked over the edge as he began straddling the barricade.
Doddo, who started his pursuit several car lengths away, made it to the edge of the bridge without a moment to spare, grabbing the man by a belt loop and the back of his shirt, and pulling him back from the brink.
The man, now laying on the highway on his stomach with his eyes closed, was hyperventilating, and visably upset, Doddo recalled.
Another motorist, a UPS driver whose vehicle was just behind Doddo, came over to render assistance, helping Doddo keep watch over the distraught man until more assistance arrived.
Soon thereafter, a Ramapo police detective arrived, securing the would-be jumper in handcuffs for his own safety.
State Police arrived a few minutes later, taking custody of the man until an ambulance could be summoned.
Despite his frenzied attempt to jump, Doddo said the young man became passive once he was back on the bridge, never even opening his eyes for well over an hour as officials took control of the scene.
The jumper, however, did become emotional as he was being secured by emergency personnel.
Doddo said the ambulance driver asked the man why he tried to jump; he responded that no one liked him, then burst into tears.
With time to reflect on the events of the past week, Doddo, an employee of MVP Systems Software in Farmington, Conn., said he is well-aware of the risks that he took with his own life in his efforts to help another.
In the moment when he chose to act, however, a man’s life was ultimately saved.
“In hindsight, everything worked out, and it was a blessing,” he said.
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