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Jul 03, 2019

Hazlet Man Saves Teen Attempting to Jump from Outerbridge Crossing

gary smiles hazlet staten island outerbridge saves man jumping suicide

A Hazlet resident saved the life of a young man who attempted to jump from the Outerbridge Crossing on Tuesday, July 2.

Gary Smiley, 56, originally from Staten Island, was crossing the bridge when he saw a man climbing the railing. The man has since been identified as a 19-year-old from Tottenville.

“I ran out of the car and screamed,” Smiley said. “I think I startled the kid. I cursed, ran up the road and said, ‘What the f— are you doing?’ There was no time to engage in normal conversation. I said, ‘Get over here!’ I put my arms out, and he jumped into my arms on the roadway. I held him, and I wouldn’t let him go.”

A retired rescue paramedic at New York City Fire Department, Smiley knew he had to act quickly, but the teen urged him not to call the police.

“The kid was about 6-foot-5,” Smiley recalled. “He was bigger than me, so I didn’t want to use the phone and upset him because he would have easily got away from me and went back to the bridge.”

The man’s mother was among the first to rush to her son’s side, still trembling in Smiley’s arms on the bridge.

“I stuck my business card in his pocket and in his mom’s hand,” Smiley said. “I told him, ‘You have a new friend now. You call me. This is not the last you’re going to see of me.’”

An ambulance soon responded to the scene and transported the man to Richmond University Medical Center for psychiatric evaluation, according to a Port Authority spokesman.

Smiley, who had been trapped beneath the rubble on Sept. 11, said he knew he crossed the bridge when he did for a reason.

“My last conscious thought before I was buried alive in the collapse of the Twin Towers was, ‘I can’t go. It’s not time,’” he said. “[That day], I told the kid, ‘I survived a terrorist attack and I’m here. I’m here to help you.’”

Having just lost his mother Saturday, Smiley was mourning. However, “instead of wallowing over my mother, I decided I would check in on a World Trade member who was in crisis in Staten Island. I wanted to make sure she was OK, and if it wasn’t for those 15 to 20 minutes with her, I would have probably been off that bridge. My friends told me that my mom put me there, and I know she did.”