Members of the Potomac Boat Club scrambled to save a man who jumped from Key Bridge


Lena Wang, right, and another member of the Potomac Boat Club stand near the shell that Lena and Sadie Quarrier used to rescue a man. (Photo by Sadie Quarrier)
John Kelly
Columnist March 5

In a way, Sadie Quarrier told me, she was hoping the man I wrote about Wednesday was the person she and Lena Wang pulled from the Potomac. At least that way, they’d know how he is doing.

Sadie and Lena are rowing partners. On Feb. 20, just as they were about to launch their two-person shell from the Potomac Boat Club, Lena saw a splash under the Key Bridge. She thought it might have come from a person hitting the water.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

At no small risk to themselves — their sleek boat had no room for passengers; the Potomac River was a frigid 39 degrees — Lena and Sadie rowed over to investigate. They found a man who appeared to be in his 20s. With the help of two other PBC members aboard a shell — Billy Cox and Katie Stainken — they were able to lift the man from the water and ferry him to shore.

Incredibly, this was not the man I wrote about Wednesday, leaving Lena and Sadie to wonder how their man is doing.

“We didn’t really speak much. We certainly didn’t exchange names,” said Sadie, who lives in the District and is a photo editor at National Geographic. “We were just in emergency mode, all four rowers trying to get him some quick help and hand him over [to an ambulance].”

Two people jumping off the Key Bridge in the same month? Sadly, it’s not unheard of. Longtime rowers say that if you spend enough time on the Potomac, you’ll spot a body.

The episode has stayed with Lena and Sadie, who have rowed together for about two years.

“Immediately, as soon as I saw his face, I was sad,” said Lena, who lives in Arlington and works with the elderly at Virginia Hospital Center. “It’s just a very sad situation, knowing he made that choice.”

The rowers feel like they intersected with another human being in the rawest and most personal of ways.

“You have seen them at their absolutely most vulnerable,” Sadie said. “There’s this recognition between us and that person that we know what they’ve done. And he knows we know that.”

She got philosophical: “Did we kind of intervene with fate, or were we fate? Were we meant to be there? How random that we were there that morning, that Lena would look over and see that splash.”

And, I pointed out, how heroic that they rowed over immediately, probably saving a life.

“It didn’t occur to me that there was any other way to react,” Sadie said. “I think anyone from our boat club would have reacted the same way.”

Smile and say ‘Nuts’

Squirrel Week, now in its fourth year, is my annual celebration of all things bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Well, soon in its fourth year. It doesn’t kick off until April 6, but I want to give you time to participate in a new element of Squirrel Week: a photo contest.

Take a stunning, captivating, funny, ironic, moving or otherwise beautiful photo of a squirrel and send it to me. (One entry per person, please.) I’ll pick my favorites, the best of which will earn a $100 gift card to a retailer to be named later. Others we’ll display online.

Here’s some of the fine print. For complete rules and prize information, go to wapo.st/
squirrelcontestrules
.

Submit high-resolution photos (240 dpi JPEG, at five inches wide/high) online at wapo.st/
squirrelcontest
. Include caption information, plus your name, e-mail address and phone number. We will not publish your personal information online.

We’re looking for amateur and enthusiast shutterbugs only; professional photographers (i.e., anyone who earns more than 50 percent of his or her annual income from photography) need not apply.

Please do not submit images that have been heavily manipulated. It is acceptable to adjust images to achieve color balance that reflects the scene as you observed it. Cropping is also acceptable. The Washington Post reserves the right to disqualify any image it thinks has been overly altered.

The deadline for entries is March 28. By entering, you grant The Post a non-exclusive license to use your photos, including to edit, publish, distribute and republish them in any form. Photographers retain the rights to their images.

The winners will be determined by me and members of The Post photography staff. Only U.S. residents are eligible for prizes. The winning photos will be published on or around April 6.

Employees, officers, directors and representatives of The Post and its affiliates, and those with whom they are domiciled, are not eligible. The contest is void outside the United States and where prohibited by law. It is subject to all federal, state and local laws. No purchase is necessary. E-mail questions to at the address below.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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