Monday, December 14, 2015

West High School teen honored for heroic act

Mayor Ted Gatsas and the Board of School Committee honored a senior from West High School for his efforts to prevent a stranger from taking his own life.

The Manchester Monarchs had just won their game against the Norfolk Admirals, and the weather was mild enough that 17-year-old Desmond Powell didn’t mind walking home from the Verizon Wireless Arena. The short walk to the West side on November 21 around 9:00 pm would have been uneventful, as it had been countless other times, until Desmond saw the man on the Granite Street Bridge.

“He was sitting on the railing with his legs on the water side,” Desmond said. “I heard him muttering to himself, ‘I’m gonna jump, I’m gonna jump.’”

Desmond was compelled to stop. Once the teenager got the suicidal man’s attention, he kept talking to try to keep him from following through with his intent.

“I told him a decision like that doesn’t just affect him, that it affects his family and friends and everyone who cares about him,” Desmond said. “Even if he’s going through a rough time, I told him he needs to keep pushing through. Something positive will happen.”

The man explained that he was a heroin user and he had gotten high earlier that day. He said he was afraid his parole officer would find out, and he was overwhelmed with the troubles he was facing in life.

Another passerby also had stopped, and with her help, Desmond coaxed the man off the railing. He was hungry, he said, so they went to the nearby Dunkin’ Donuts where Desmond gave him ten dollars to buy coffee and a sandwich. When the man went to use the restroom, Desmond called the police to come pick the man up. The distraught man overheard the conversation and left.

That might have been the end of the story if the man hadn’t left his cell phone charging in the outlet at Dunkin’ Donuts.

“I saw him run up Dubuque Street, so that gave police an idea of the area he was in,” Desmond said. “I told them they could come get his phone to give it back to him when they found him.”

While Desmond waited, the man returned on his own, with a message of thanks for Desmond.

“He said, ‘People like you make me want to stay in this world. Thanks for believing in me. You saved my life. You’re a hero.’”

Anyone who knows Desmond isn’t surprised to hear how he reacted in this situation.

“Desmond is a leader, and I believe he will continue to shape the lives of others around him,” said West High School principal Chris Motika. “His courage and strong moral compass will guide him to a lifetime of success.”

A West football player and Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet, Desmond says he was raised to care for others and do the right thing.

“If I hadn’t stopped on the bridge and found out the next day there had been a suicide, I would have felt very guilty,” Desmond said. “It would be awful to know I was there and could have done something.”
At Monday night’s Board of School Committee meeting, Mayor Gatsas read a proclamation commending Desmond for his act of courage and caring.

“Desmond is a role model for all of us,” said Mayor Gatsas. “When someone in our community is in trouble, we should think about the ways we can help.”  

As for that man who was in so much distress he wanted to end his life, Desmond doesn’t know what happened to him after the police and an ambulance arrived on Granite Street to attend to him.

“I didn’t even get the guy’s name, but I hope he’s doing all right.”

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