Even though he was on the job, Anthony “Buzz” Brown couldn’t just drive by when he saw a man about to jump off of a bridge on Sand Hill Road onto I-40 earlier this year. The longtime Leak Detection Technician for Asheville Water Resources stopped, turned his truck around, and engaged the man in a dialogue, eventually talking him off of that bridge and saving him from suicide in March.
He didn’t do it for recognition — he did it because suicide has touched his life and he wants to prevent it from happening to anyone else. “I had a brother who committed suicide,” Brown said. “The pain never goes away.”
Many people have thanked Brown for his action, including the man’s parents, who met with him afterward and gave him the man’s great-grandfather’s military Medal of Courage award. Brown has it hanging in his office. “They’re great people,” he said. “They told me their son was saved from suicide twice — the other person’s name was Buzz also.”
The City of Asheville gave him its Quality of Service Award, which carries with it a $1,500 bonus. And this month he received a national award, the American Water Works Association 2021 Heroism Award.
During their December 14 meeting, City Manager Debra Campbell acknowledged Brown before the City Council. “I want to say thank you to Buzz and to congratulate him on this national award and recognition,” Campbell said. “Let’s give him a hand not only for all that he does at the Water Department but especially for his heroic act of kindness on that day.”
“Anthony is not only a great employee, he is also a humble and caring person,” said Water Resources Director David Melton. “Anthony said, ‘I stopped because I care. I don’t need to be recognized.’ ”
Asheville Police Officer Vincent Garretto was the responding officer on the scene that day in March. ““I am confident without Anthony stopping and talking with the man, he may have possibly jumped before officers arrived,” Garretto said.
Brown’s message to others is two fold: “If you see someone who is hurting it’s important to get involved because you don’t know what kind of impact you can make in their lives.”
And to those who may be considering suicide, please get help.
“There are people who do care, who love them,” Brown said. “The ones they leave behind are the ones they hurt the most. I know it’s hard but every day it gets a little easier.”
Losing Cornelius “was one of the most devastating things that happened to our family,” Brown said. “I just hope I can help anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide, or anyone who is thinking about suicide. There is hope out there and they are not alone. We have to do this for one another.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-8255, is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.