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It was a holiday, Martin Luther King Day. The young girl looked to be about 14 or 15 years old. She was standing in the middle of an overpass, leaning against the barrier. For some reason, Jordan Hendler knew this spelled trouble, and that the girl was preparing to jump.
She pulled over, told her children who she was running errands with to not get out of the car for any reason, and started walking toward the girl.
"It was like I was doing what I was told to do by God," said Hendler, who is the executive director of the Washington Metropolitan Auto Body Association (WMABA).
While walking toward the girl, Hendler called 911 and told the operator that they needed to get to the overpass right away because someone was about to commit suicide.
Holding the phone in one hand and reaching out her other hand to the girl, she pleaded with her not to jump. As Hendler inched closer, the girl swung her legs over the barrier. That’s when Hendler told the young girl something her father, Jeff, administrator of the Collision Industry Conference (CIC), once told a young Jordan about suicide.
"This is a permanent solution to a temporary problem," she said.
While Hendler approached from one side of the overpass, she saw another Good Samaritan slowly coming up from behind the girl.
"He looked like an NFL linebacker," Hendler said. "He and I made eye contact, and it was like we knew exactly what he needed to do."
Hendler kept talking to the girl, trying to distract her until the man could get close behind her. When he reached her, he grabbed her by the ponytail and the back of her coat and pulled her off the barrier.
The girl started screaming hysterically, shouting, "Let me go! I want to jump!" But Hendler and the large man held her down. The girl passed out for a few minutes, but when she came to, she became hysterical again and pleaded with them to let her jump. Exactly three minutes and 50 seconds after Hendler first placed the call to 911, which she said felt like an eternity, the police and EMS showed up.
The police took the girl away in handcuffs. Hendler never found out the girl’s name, and no one called her with more information. The incident also did not make the newspaper. But Hendler did find out that the girl was living in a group home for teenagers at the time, and was placed under psychiatric observation for 48 hours after the incident.
Hendler felt she was called to do what she did that day. She and her children had changed their route when they had discovered the restaurant they had planned to go to, Outback Steakhouse, was closed, and that’s when destiny and fate collided.
"If Outback had been open, or if I hadn’t been driving the back road, I would not have been there," says Hendler. "You don’t know that one day you’ll be called upon to do the right thing at the right moment, but when the time comes, if you have your heart open, you’ll know exactly what to do. I hope the young girl is going to be fine and can get some help, so that whatever it was that burdened her so much will pass."