The kindness of strangers helps a suicidal man; and an abused cat finds a loving home

John Kelly
Columnist March 12

I went looking for the Key Bridge good Samaritan. I didn’t find one. I found many.

Last week, I wrote about a man who in February jumped off the Key Bridge. He survived the suicide attempt and is getting good treatment for the mental illness that drove him to such a desperate act. His father wanted to thank the mystery passerby who he was told had grabbed a boat and rescued his son from the freezing 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

Many witnesses contacted me and said they are near certain the man swam out of the water himself. (The man himself has only the fuzziest recollection.)

Though an Arlington County Fire Department spokeswoman told me that someone on a running trail — “an adult male in the military” — had grabbed a kayak, she did say that since the EMT crew was busily involved in patient care, it’s possible the story had become garbled.

The D.C. police report about the incident said the man swam to the shore unaided. I think this in no way diminishes what happened that morning.


Anne Hancock holds Arrow, a cat who was found in January wandering near Ballston Common Mall and taken to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. He was blind and had been shot multiple times with a BB gun or shotgun. He was adopted by Anne Hancock of Arlington. X-rays reveal the extent of the injuries. The pellets will be left in. (Courtesy Animal Welfare League of Arlington)

I heard from three people who were on the bridge, two in cars, the other walking on the sidewalk. All expressed concern for the man.

I heard from Caleb Jackson, too. The retired D.C. police officer from Upper Marlboro was between takes of an independent Web series that was shooting near a boathouse when he happened to look up and see the man unhesitatingly climb the fence on the Key Bridge and jump off. Caleb rushed toward the water, stopping only to call 911.

When the man emerged, dripping wet, Caleb bundled him in a blanket and led him to his warm SUV to await the ambulance.

A doctor who happened to be running by stopped to check the man’s condition, Caleb said.

“It seemed like everybody who saw him was concerned,” Caleb said. “Everybody tried to do their part.”

The man’s father said he may never know exactly what happened that morning. But, he said, “the people I’ve talked to indicated there were a lot of people willing to help.”

That’s encouraging. So is the fact that his son was so quick to get out of the water — that he didn’t stay there, succumbing to hypothermia. I hope that bodes well for his future.

The scene that frigid February morning must have seemed cinematic: traffic on the bridge, joggers below, pedestrians everywhere and then, suddenly, a falling man.

Elisabeth Blaug and her husband saw it happen, and she told me that she was haunted by it, breaking into tears whenever the memory came back. That’s why she was so glad to read that the man was doing well.

“I know that this man comes from a loving and caring family that will do everything it can to help their beloved son,” she wrote. “Please let the family know that two strangers have held this man in their thoughts and prayers, and will continue to do so.”

One lucky cat

Anne Hancock describes her newest cat, Arrow, as an “absolute love sponge” and a “constant purring machine.”

This is amazing when you consider what the feline has been through. He was discovered in January near Ballston Common Mall. At the time, he was feral and in rough shape. He was undernourished. One eye was shriveled. The other had a detached retina. He was taken to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, where he was X-rayed to check for possible lung problems.

That’s when the vet found someone had used Arrow for target practice. His body was peppered with more than 80 pellets, fired from either a BB gun or a shotgun.

Anne had no qualms about adding a blind, shot-ridden Arrow to her existing menagerie: cats Brianna and Willie.

Arrow is slowly acclimating to Anne’s Arlington home. She’s confined him to one floor of the house but will slowly introduce him to the rest of it. “He wanders from room to room, sensing where he is,” she said.

A happy ending to a sad situation, I pointed out.

“It’s very sad,” Anne said. “It’s worse than sad. It’s criminal to treat any living creature so inhumanely. It’s amazing that he is so trusting and affectionate in spite of it. . . . I think when these cats find a safe haven, they don’t even care about the food. They just want to be loved and cared for. They’re very grateful.

“I think I’m luckier than he is. He really is a wonderful, super special cat.”

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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