Reprinted from American Water Works Association
Carrying the sadness of losing a family member to suicide guided an Asheville Water Resources professional to reach out to a stranger he saw lingering at the edge of a highway overpass.
The compassion of his action saved a life.
Anthony “Buzz” Brown was driving down Sand Hill Road in his truck in March, carrying out his work as a leak detection specialist, when he passed by a man standing on bridge, looking down at the vehicles whizzing past on Interstate 40.
Noticing that the man seemed distressed, Brown didn’t hesitate to turn around, drive back, get out of his truck and approach him.
“I told him my name. I asked him for his name,” Brown said. “He told me there was nothing I could do to help him or save him.”
“The thing that upset me the most was how many people drove by him knowing the condition he was in,” added Brown, whose brother, Cornelius, took his own life at age 22 while studying law at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Brown said he told the man he wasn’t there to judge him, and that he cared. He told him he had a story to tell him and he needed to listen.
As Brown told the man about Cornelius, the man started describing the troubles he was going through. Eventually they both slowly walked away from the overpass and back toward Brown’s truck. Asheville Police arrived shortly after and transported the man to get medical assistance.
Brown, who has worked with the City for 15 years, was recognized by Asheville City Manager Debra Campbell during the March 9 City Council meeting for helping to rescue a stranger in need.
“I am confident without Anthony stopping and talking with the man, he may have possibly jumped before officers arrived on scene,” said Asheville Police Officer Vincent Garretto, who responded to the scene. “Anthony very well saved a life today and should be recognized for his actions.”
Asheville Water Resources Director David Melton said, “Buzz’s actions were incredible and represent the caliber and compassion of teammates within our industry.”
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.