St. Thomas sophomores Lauren Keller and Maura Shea recently were awarded the Chief’s Award from the City of St. Paul for their actions when they encountered a woman in distress last spring.
The two were walking along Mississippi River Boulevard on May 20, 2014, when they noticed a woman lying on the ground down an embankment. At first, they thought she had fallen, but when they stopped to help, she indicated she was trying to kill herself.
Keller called 911. “I overheard her talking to Maura about having suicidal thoughts. That’s when I got very nervous and asked for professional assistance immediately,” Keller said. The woman was going in and out of consciousness, but continued to try to move herself down the embankment toward a drop-off to the river.
They stayed with the woman to prevent her from harming herself until medics arrived. Although the ordeal lasted about 30 minutes, it felt much longer. “It seemed like we were there forever, time was moving so slowly because each moment was so important,” Shea said.
In his letter to Shea and Keller, St. Paul police Chief Thomas Smith said: “Your courage and compassion displayed for this distraught individual is admirable. If you had not assisted her, it is unknown how long she would have lied there and if she would have survived … My sincere appreciation for your fine performance, as it reflects most credibly on you and the citizens of St. Paul.”
The experience is something the two will not soon forget. According to Shea, “It’s a reminder to be active in the community and especially from this unique experience, to be supportive and kind to those around us because you never know the struggle someone is going through.”