On an ordinary work day, Danny Calsing would already have been at home after putting in a full day as a Children’s Mercy security officer.
On an ordinary work day, he wouldn’t have been on the job later than usual, driving the shuttle to take hospital employees to their cars in off-site parking north of the Adele Hall Campus.
But the evening of April 4 turned out to be anything but ordinary for Danny, whose departure from routine brought him face-to-face – literally – with the opportunity to avert a tragedy.
“My normal hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but I was working longer that evening to assist with a shortage of drivers for off-site parking,” Danny said. Heading north on Holmes toward a bridge that spans railroad tracks, he and the half-dozen employees on the bus noticed a man standing on the wrong side of a chain link fence along the side of the bridge, on an embankment overlooking train tracks below.
“It didn’t look right,” Danny said.
So he parked the bus, asked the employees on board to call 911, flagged another shuttle to pick them up, hopped out of the vehicle and cautiously approached the man.
‘You’re not going to do this today”
Exchanging names with him, Danny learned that, sure enough, the man intended to jump off the bridge and into the path of a train.
“He told me no one cared about him, and as I worked my way toward him to get closer, I told him I cared about him, I wanted to help him through this,” Danny said. “All the while I was thinking, ‘what am I going to do if he tries to jump?’ So I made a plan to grab his shirt through a hole in the fence.”
To complicate matters, the man was standing a very narrow ledge, no more than a few inches wide.
“The worst part was when he turned around on the ledge to face me,” Danny said. “I tried keeping hold of him through the fence, so he wouldn’t just slip. I thought, ‘don’t fall now, we’ve come so far.’”
And then, of course, came the train.
“My heart was racing,” Danny said. “I grabbed his sweater, asked him to look me in the eyes and told him, ‘you’re not going to do this today.’”
The two maintained eye contact until the train passed and KCMO police, summoned by the employees on the bus, arrived to take charge. But Danny stayed with the man until he was in an ambulance headed to safety at Truman Medical Center.
Acting on instinct
Danny, who has been a Children's Mercy security officer for a little more than two years, is a former police officer and has been trained in handling many situations, but has not received specific training in how to intervene in a suicide attempt. Still, he knew to keep the conversation with the man focused on the positive.
“I wanted to engage him in conversation but didn’t want to bring up details of whatever was causing his pain,” he said. “I stayed with the positive, telling him I was there for him, cared about him, and wanted to get him help.”
The entire episode took about 10 minutes, from his initial contact with the man until the ambulance drove away and Danny returned to the shuttle.
Looking back, like most people who step up in times of crisis, Danny shrugs off talk of heroism.
“I was just glad I was able to be there, and things worked out,” he said.
Which in itself is extraordinary.