What would you do when you see a jumper preparing for the leap? Many of us would like to think we would remain calm and be the hero. So many people may react poorly, or perhaps even worse, not at all. The mentality of ‘not wanting to get involved’ often prevents people from making a difference when they see something unjust or tragic about to happen.
However, ‘not wanting to get involved’ was far from the thoughts of three heroes when they saved a suicidal man from jumping to his death. And they were no older than 14.
Three Unlikely Heroes
In the English town of Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, Devonte Cafferkey, 13, Sammy Farah, 14, and Shawn Young, 12, were coming home from St Mary’s High School when they saw a man sitting at the edge of an overpass in Waltham Cross. There was a rope strung around his neck.
The boys had been taking their time as they walked. Shawn had kept telling them to hurry up.
“If they had been messing around a bit longer, who knows what they would have come and met instead?” said Carol, Shawn’s mother. “I feel like they were meant to be there to help him.”
Most children hadn’t witnessed death, much less a suicidal situation, at their age. Yet they didn’t panic. The compassion and bravery of these boys saved a man’s life.
They approached the man and tried to coax him from the edge with encouraging words. Still, the man turned and prepared to jump. The boys grabbed him and refused to let go. Shawn, with an incredible presence of mind, went to find help and brought two passers-by to help rescue the man. 
“The boys relaxed when I took over but they were distraught, I kept thinking they need counseling because he had somebody’s life in their hands and if they let go he would have died,” said Joanne Stammers, one of the people who responded to Shawn’s call. “The man just didn’t want to live anymore, he was crying and I said to him ‘please don’t do this to us’ and he said ‘then go and just leave me’.
The boys held onto the man long enough for the road around the Waltham Cross to close as a precaution, and the man was taken to hospital at around 6:20pm. 
The Young Heroes After the Event
Carol was impressed at the boys’ maturity. “Shawn told me what happened when he came home. I let him finish the whole story and the whole way through I was smiling because there was nothing I could add to it. While trying to keep the man back and talk him out of suicide, he passed the boys his mobile phone saying ‘if it rings, don’t answer it’.”
Jacqueline Cafferkey, Devonte’s mother, said the incident was traumatic for him. Devonte is glad the man is recovering. He did not want to go to school that Monday, which “never happens” according to his mom.
“He does not want to talk about it, it has been hard. Sammy has come over and has been quiet,” said Jacqueline. “I am filled with pride, I keep telling him he saved someone’s life and I hope that he realizes that now.”
Mohamed Farah, Sammy’s dad, described his son as a ‘quiet and humble boy.’
“He has always been helpful to other people, when he sees an older lady on the street with shopping he goes to help,” he said. “What they did was very brave. The man was a lot bigger and stronger than them and he didn’t care about his life so he could have hurt the boys. But they just ran to help.” 
The Two Bystanders Who Came to Help
One of the passers-by who aided the boys was 47-year-old Joanne Stammers, who is disabled with Klippel–Trénaunay syndrome, a rare condition that makes her highly prone to blood clotting. It prevents her from working but it did not stop her from helping the boys hold onto the man “for what feels like forever.” The incident left her with bruises all over her arms.
The other passerby was James Higlett, who refused interviews.
Awards for Their Heroism
All five heroes will receive awards from the Royal Humane Society, a charity that promotes life-saving interventions.
Carol said, “I am extremely proud of all three of them, they are all good boys and it’s nice that they are getting recognized for doing something good in the community. Quite often in the national news, there are a lot of negative reports about young people so it is nice to have something positive.
“They are very young and I marvel at how they are all dealing with it. Every time I speak to them I learn something new about what happened. For example, the man was passing out and got heavier for them, I didn’t know that until recently.”
The heroes received the Special Achievement Awards at the Broxbourne Youth Awards for their bravery.
Joanne described the award as a “great honor” and she keeps in touch with Jacqueline Cafferkey, Devonte’s mother.
“It’s amazing to get this award; it’s obviously under sad circumstances but it’s also great that the kids are getting something for what they did,” Joanne said. “I am really pleased for them and I hope other children can see it’s worth stopping to help someone.”
The five saviors were nominated for these awards by Hertfordshire Police, although the date for the awards presentation has not been set yet. 
Joanne was on her way back from seeing her mother in Waltham Cross when she saw Shawn asking for help. She hates going under the bridge now and avoids the route whenever possible. However, she still sees it once a week when she visits her mother, and every time, she ensures no one else is standing on the edge.
- Narbeh Minassian and Steve Robson. Three schoolboys found suicidal man about to jump off bridge – they grabbed him and didn’t let go https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/three-schoolboys-found-suicidal-man-12281526 Spril 2, 2018
- Narbeh Minassian. A10 Waltham Cross kids stopped suicidal man jumping from bridge https://www.hertfordshiremercury.co.uk/news/hertfordshire-news/a10-waltham-cross-kids-stopped-767105 September 26, 2017
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