Life hanging in the balance

09:06, May 25, 2011      

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Guo Zhongfan, a local community director in Changchun, Jilin province, is praised by community residents after he saved a 22-year-old woman who attempted to kill herself by jumping out of a seventh-floor residential building on May 17, 2011. Li Yang / For China Daily

The dramatic rescue photos have been beamed around the world by Internet - a woman in a wedding dress dangling from a window as a man desperately holds on.

That man was Guo Zhongfan, a local community director in Changchun, Jilin province, who had been told a woman was on a seventh-floor windowsill of a building under his care, threatening to jump.

By the time he arrived, police had inflated an emergency air cushion and an ambulance was parked nearby, while everyone around was staring up.

What had started out as a regular afternoon on May 17 had taken a serious turn toward potential tragedy.

"Although there was an air cushion on the ground, the young woman could still die or injure herself," said Guo, 40, who used to be a journalist with local media and had three years of experience working on accident scenes with police.

He is clear about the risks of jumping from high buildings.

"I've seen many people end up paraplegic after falling down from, say, a building on fire, either because the building was too high, or they did not know the right way to land to protect themselves from injury," Guo said.

The last thing he wanted to see was a similar tragedy happening again. He went upstairs to talk with the frantic girl.

The 22-year-old, surnamed Li, lived in an apartment in the building. She was sitting on the windowsill of the seventh floor passageway in a wedding dress, threatening to jump.

Several of her neighbors were trying to persuade her to come down, while Li was in hysterics, screaming and crying because her boyfriend of four years had suddenly left her for another woman.

"The neighbors said that Li was too silly to kill herself for someone who did not love her, which is not the right thing to say," Guo said. "Since Li is already upset, what is the good of aggravating her further?"

For 45 minutes, tension continued to rise as she moved restlessly on the windowsill on the seventh floor of the building.

Guo tried to cheer her up.

"Dear young lady, you are so attractive and so young, why feel bad for yourself?

"There are thousands of men you can choose from."

Eventually Li started to talk, and over the next 40 minutes repeated her story several times and started to calm down.

"While we talked I was also trying to figure out a path to the window in case she jumped," Guo said. "I was nine stairs from her - that means I could reach her in three leaps - the first over five stairs, the second another four stairs to the window, and then reach out my hands."

Guo knew some kungfu and did other excises, such as swimming and lifting weights, so he was confident about his speed and physical strength.

"I could tell that she might jump any minute, and I had to be prepared," he said.

Then Li's mother arrived at the scene, screaming and crying, which got Li stirred up again.

"I saw her move a little, then I knew she was going to jump," Guo said.

Within two seconds, he leapt up the stairs and grabbed her around the neck.

And that was the image caught on camera and posted around the Web during the last week.

"I'm neither a hero nor have any extraordinary talent," said Guo, recalling his heroic act. "It's just that I understand how to think from others' perspectives, and I'm clear about my own capacity to help them."

On Monday he received a thank-you letter in his office from the girl.

"I'm glad to know that she had given up the thought of suicide, saying that was the stupidest thing she'd ever tried and will never do it again," said Guo, adding that the woman has gone back to her rural hometown in Jilin province.

"I hope she can restart a good life."

Source:China Daily
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