By Calli Townsend
“If I had run a five second slower mile. If I had been five seconds later, I wouldn’t have seen her. I would’ve just seen the backpack and probably thought nothing of it.”
Lexington-native Miranda Coombs had just set out on her run in Fort Wayne, Indiana on Monday evening. As a grad student in Trine University’s physical therapy program, Coombs said she enjoys running as a “brain break” from her clinicals and classes. Never did she imagine, though, that she’d have the opportunity to save a life.
“There was a bridge and the bike path I run on goes under the bridge, so I was under it and saw this girl,” Coombs said. “Keep in mind, it was less than 30 degrees and there’s ice in the water and she was about chest deep when I saw her. At my first reaction was that she was a ghost, and then I got up to her and I stopped and shouted and she just turned back at me and stared at me.”
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Coombs looked around to see if anyone else was nearby. Seeing nobody, she turned back to face the girl.
“I turned around and she was gone,” Coombs said. “I didn’t know if she went under the water, but then I saw her wake so I realized that she might’ve gone behind the wall and I called my roommate.”
After a quick call to her roommate and 911, another man on a bicycle drove passed. He stopped and the two walked up and down the river to find the girl.
“We couldn’t see her on the other side of the river, but we tried to talk to her,” Coombs said. “Then she started shouting, ‘I don’t want to die and I can’t swim.’”
This confirmed Coombs’ suspicion and she knew they couldn’t leave this girl alone. While she went up the hill to direct the ambulance where to go, the man on the bicycle kept talking to the her to make sure she was still conscious.
“I got the fire fighters and a guy with a wet suit went in pulled her out. She was definitely very, very cold,” Coombs said. “I was just so glad she was okay. She was probably 14 or 15, she looked young. She had her backpack on the ground.”
Once everyone knew the girl was safe and would be okay, she was taken away by ambulance and Coombs was with her roommate who came to help and the man on the bicycle.
“The man who stopped was a seminarian at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, so he was becoming a priest,” Coombs said. “After he asked my roommate and I if we were religious and if he could pray with us.”
And so they did. Through God’s provision and timing, they were able to rescue a young girl.
Monday’s run was a great reminder for Coombs and all of those involved of the brevity of life and how quickly things can change.
“You just never know what’s going on in someone’s life for them to get to that point,” Coombs said. “You never know how much time we have. It was one of the most intense moments of my life.”
According to the United Health Foundation, teen suicide in the U.S. has increased by 32% in the past four years from 8.4 to 11.1 among 15-19 year olds. With more isolation and less activities for kids, this can only be expected to increase.
“The social aspect is a challenge for sure. Kids are being isolated and some kids aren’t going to school and can’t communicate with friends, and if you were an only child, you have no one, and what if your parents work?” Coombs said. “I think people are losing their support system of getting through anything.”
While we like to think the best, we can never be sure what’s really going on in a person’s life, like Coombs said. We must have the courage and compassion to stop, to smile, to acknowledge, and to reach out to the people we encounter each day. We never know who’s life we could save.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression and needs to talk with someone, you can call the suicide prevention lifeline at 800-273-8255.