Nicole Oyola was driving home over the Howard Frankland Bridge in Tampa on Thursday when she noticed a car stopped on the side of the road with its hazard lights on. It was only when she slowed down to see if the man in the car needed any help that she realized the driver was standing at the edge of the bridge, with one foot hanging toward the water and tears streaming down his face.
“I questioned myself, should I stop? Then something in my gut told me he needs you,” the 23-year-old from Clearwater, Fla., tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
In the short moments that she took to contemplate her next move, the man appeared to be readying to jump off the bridge. Oyola sprung into action, pulled over, and ran over to the stranger to offer some compassion.
“What would you want someone to tell you if you were there?” Oyola explains of her thinking before she spoke to the man. “I told him, ‘Look at me. I don’t know what you’re going through, but I just want a hug. I want to tell you that I am here for you, that I love you, and I need you to overcome this because you are strong and you matter.’”
As soon as the man’s eyes met hers, Oyola says that he became willing to be helped off the bridge’s edge. The two sat down on the side of the road and had a heart-to-heart. Although the man didn’t do much of the talking himself, he did tell Oyola how lonely he felt.
“How is it that people were so selfish to drive by and not stop,” she continues. “I was amazed.”
Oyola eventually called the police, with the man’s permission, and the officer who arrived at the scene prayed with the man before taking him to get help, local Tampa news station Fox 13 reported.
The officer later told her that the man was being held under the Baker Act, or the Florida Mental Health Act, for 72 hours. Under the Baker Act, a law enforcement official “may transport an individual to a facility for evaluation if there is reason to believe that the individual’s behavior meets statutory guidelines for involuntary examination” for a mental health evaluation, according to the Okeechobee Clerk of the Circuit Court.
Oyola says she gave him her number with the hope that he contacts her sometime in the future.
“God has a purpose for everyone, I believe in that, so I stopped,” she says. “All I wanted to do was make him feel better because if I was going through that, I’d want someone to stop for me.”
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