Sometimes life puts us in situations where there's no time to think through the proper choice to make: situations where our body springs into action before our mind really knows why we're doing it.
Christopher Regalado, a 17-year-old North Central High School student, had one of those moments early Sunday morning as his prom night was coming to an end. He found himself face-to-face with a suicidal woman about to jump off the Washington Street bridge into the rushing Spokane River below. Through intense listening, validation in her pain, and sharing words of wisdom and encouragement, Christopher was able to talk the woman off the rail of the bridge on which she was standing.
Christopher's mother, Stephanie Regalado, recounted the events, as told to her by her son, in an emotional Facebook post.
She says that her son was waiting for his dad to pick him up, when he overheard a cry for help. Before he could decide what he should do, "he found himself running toward the bridge, in complete darkness. He began to see the outline of a person perched up on the second of three bars with her body hanging over the top bar looking down toward the raging river. She wouldn’t turn toward him or acknowledge his presence through the fencing barrier, so he swiftly scaled it and slowly approached her, using a calm voice and asking her what was up, what was happening. He was scared he was about to have to watch her leap off the bridge, but he pushed closer, hoping to get within a distance he felt confident he could leap to catch her feet if she went over. She finally looked back at him and locked eyes with a 'terrifying look in her eyes.' He asked her again what was up. If he could help.
She began repeatedly sharing her life story of years of abuse and sexual abuse and a father who abandoned her. Christopher listened, validating her state of being by saying he couldn’t even imagine such horrible things happening to him and that although he hasn’t experienced anything like that or know the pain the way she was feeling it, he could understand why she would want all that pain to go away. And that he didn’t judge her for feeling so hopeless.
She shared she had watched one of her friends leap to her death from a Riverfront Park bridge years before, and that she remembered she looked so beautiful, that her leaping looked so beautiful. Christopher said none of us have any way of knowing if that experience is beautiful—that she had no way of truly knowing her friend’s experience was beautiful for her. But he did know the only way to guarantee doing something beautiful was to stay alive and make it happen in our lives.
Eventually, she sat down on the second bar she had been standing on. She shared she didn’t trust men and would attack them in the past if they approached her. He thanked her for not attacking him, which made her smile. He shared a little bit about himself so she could feel like he wasn’t 'some stranger she had no connection to.' She couldn’t believe he was only 17 and still in high school. Or that he had been celebrating his senior prom that night (he was still in his tux).
He shared with her he really wished he could comprehend the pain she was feeling, but there was no way he could. And he knew that she had a special opportunity to help others who feel the way she does because she truly understands it. And if she chooses to live, she could then help other people choose to live, as well. He asked her to think of the difference she could make considering how he could help her without even knowing her pain. That she could do so much more for others.
She eventually climbed down and made sure there was room for Christopher to sit beside her. They continued talking until he felt as though she was in a good spot.
He went to give her a hug and then apologized because he remembered she was apprehensive around men. And then she said it was okay and gave him a 'pretty big hug.' He had his hand on the rail as they were saying goodbye. He was making her promise that she would always remember a stranger could see how strong she was (and that choosing to die is easy, choosing to live was hard, but she could do hard things because of her incredible strength), he made her promise that she would always choose to live.
She placed her hand on top of his and emotionally said 'thank you.' He said some of it was blurry because of the intensity of it all. That it was emotionally exhausting because he knew he had to truly listen to every word she said and make sure he was responding to it all as thoughtfully as possible. That his brain was racing to find the right words as it prepped to leap to grab her if she fell over, or to defend himself without hurting her if she turned to attack him.
In the end, they both walked off the bridge together and as she walked on, Christopher went to meet his dad..."
Stephanie says he son is doing okay and still trying to make sense of it all.
When she asked him if he knew how proud she was of him, he replied, “Not really. I mean, if you hear someone calling out for help, you can’t turn away from that.”
She ended the post saying, "May we all behold a little ManCub in each of us" (ManCub is the nickname she has for her son).
She went on to say, "Many prayers to that incredibly strong young woman who allowed a stranger to come out of the darkness to answer her pleas for help. May her moments with Christopher and the words they shared stay tucked deep into her heart ... may they help her work toward making beautiful things happen in her life in spite of her pain and darkness."
Stephanie shared the post with a photo of her son and his prom date from earlier in the evening. The photo is edited with a filter called "superhero" which she felt was fitting.
In a private message, Stephanie also shared that this event hits all too close to home for her family. North Central High School has lost 4 boys to suicide over the last couple years, three of which her son knew personally.
Stephanie's own brother also committed suicide when he was just 15 years old, two weeks before she began her senior year in high school. Coincidentally, as the Editor-In-Chief for Spokane Coeur d'Alene Living Magazine, she actually just wrote about the loss of her brother in her editor's letter for the month of May. You can read it here: https://bozzimedia.com/and-the-trees-bud-again/
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
(story: Nichole Mischke, KHQ Right Now Reporter; photo: Stephanie Regalado)