Published on Friday, 12 December 2014 06:03. Written by Terry Ward. www.westmetronews.com
A taxi driver flagged down West Columbia Policeman Will Norris on the morning of Nov. 22 and told him a man was about to jump from the Gervais Street Bridge keeper Bridge. Norris was taking a report about a vandalism. He quickly jumped into his patrol car and rushed to the bridge. “I saw a man on the other side of the safety rail,” Norris said. “He was facing the water, with his hands behind him holding onto the rail. I was about 10 feet from him. I was thinking ‘What do I do?’”
Norris began talking to the man. “I want too kill myself,” the man said. The situation was urgent. Norris had radioed for back-up, and he put in another call: “Step it up,” he said. As Norris requested assistance, the man, 60-feet above a shallow and rocky river, turned and lowered himself, Norris said. At that split second, Norris sensing if he did not act, the man would take a plunge. Norris lunged at him. “I grabbed him by the shirt at both shoulders,” said Norris, who almost fell with the man. “Both of my feet were off the ground.” Norris said he was being held up by the rail of the bridge. A motorist saw the plight of the men, and stopped. “He helped me bring him up,” said Norris.
Another officer patrolling Riverwalk, from below, told Norris he could see the man’s feet dangling under the bridge. Norris said. It was a very close call. It happened quckly. Norris said he was able to digest the danger only after it was over. He said he did not see his life flash before his eyes, as people in that situation often report. When asked what the man did after he was pulled up, Norris said: He just cried.”
“It was surreal,” said Norris, who has been on the West Columbia Police force for almost four years.
Norris said he did get the sense of his own mortality, as the highly stressful ordeal played out. After his shift, a modest Norris and some co-workers talked about the harrowing event. His fellow officers congratulated him. “You would have done the same thing, I told them,” said Norris.
Norris, who is from Charleston, said he loves his job as a West Columbia Policeman. He was an intern at the WCPD when he was in college, working indoors a lot. But after he graduated, he said did not want to be inside. He wanted to get out among the people. That’s why he became a patrolman. But not everyone is comfortable with Norris barely secured six stories over the Congaree River. “My wife Heather called it a balancing act after she saw the video,” Norris said. “She was upset.”
Not that he wants to try the same rescue exercise again anytime soon, but Norris said he did have some help. “God was on our side,” he said.