On a bright Friday afternoon in spring, Sumeja Tulic had every reason to relish walking the streets of New York, a city she’d moved to nine months earlier from London to attend journalism school. “When the weather is good, it’s very hard to find a reason to be melancholic or dissatisfied with the city,” she said.
Yet her time in New York coincided with a season of ceaseless ugliness in politics and acts of terrorism around the world. “One day you laugh, and then you’re angry,” said Tulic, a Bosnian Libyan.
As she walked toward the subway station, she thought, “‘Please, God, I want to see something nice,’” she said. “Enough of this craziness.”
At the City Hall station, she settled onto a bench. It was just after 2 p.m. Only a few people were at the station. A man leaned against a pillar, the way anyone might, waiting for the train. The stillness was interrupted by an announcement that the next train was two stations away. Then Tulic glimpsed the man at the pillar collapsing forward onto the tracks.
“This man waiting for the train,” said Rachelle Peterson, a researcher who was also on the platform, “ran over, peered over the edge, then jumped onto the tracks.”
“One of the gentlemen was trying to wake him up, and he just couldn’t,” said an eyewitness.
The man who had fallen was not moving. Two more men jumped down to help.
“I don’t know where these men got the wit and the quickness,” Tulic said. “The man who fell was about six foot tall, a heavy man by default. He was kind of jammed in the tracks. It was nerve-racking to know that the train was coming. Will it stop? Will they succeed to pull him out?”
On the tracks, the unconscious man was propped to a sitting position by the three men, who then lifted him from below to others who hoisted from above and rolled him onto the platform. Then the rescuers were themselves rescued, hauled back to safety by helping hands. As soon as they were all clear, the train pulled in. “People getting off the train walked around this unconscious man,” Peterson said.
He was not, however, alone. Two of the men who had jumped onto the platform were holding his hands. “They were saying, ‘Buddy, you’re going to be fine,’” Tulic said. “This was an additional layer of goodness.”
Paramedics arrived, and the man was taken to a local hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries, officials said.
One of the men who went onto the tracks, David Tirado, told gothamist.com that he had visited with the stricken man, who had no recollection of being in the subway or of a congress of strangers gathering to save him.
“That is the greatest thing,” Tulic said. “The infrastructure in this city of millions is the people themselves providing, being there for others. Without even knowing the person, who he is, no matter what denomination he subscribes to. It was beautiful to see.”