Volunteer Guards Bridge to Save Lives

Since Chen Si began patrolling the Nanjing Bridge four years ago, he has saved 144 lives.

Chen Si, of Nanjing, China, is a very special kind of lifeguard. He doesn’t wear a swimsuit, he isn’t paid a penny for his work, and he’s never even dipped a toe into the waters of the Yangtze River.

Nonetheless, since the 34-year-old began patrolling the Nanjing Bridge four years ago, he has saved 144 lives.

Chen began his rescue mission in 2004, while feeling guilty about the suicide of an elderly neighbor. “I thought to myself, ‘Why didn’t I go visit him, talk to him?’” he told The Los Angeles Times. “Maybe I could have saved his life.”

So that weekend, he went to Nanjing Bridge, a landmark that’s notorious as a destination for suicide jumpers. Since the bridge’s opening 40 years ago, over 1,000 people have killed themselves by jumping into the water. Chen decided that, even if he couldn’t save his neighbor, at least he may be able to save others from throwing their lives away.

On his first day patrolling the bridge, he came across a man in the process of crawling over the bridge’s railing. I grabbed him by the waist, he hardly fought back,” said Chen. “I pressed him to the ground. He started to cry.”

The would-be jumper was distraught after losing his money to a con man, and believed that suicide was the only way out. But after Chen prevented him from jumping, the man realized he still had a lot to live for –his wife and children. Because the man was now penniless, Chen gave him enough money for bus fare to return home to his family.

“In a time of crisis, all people really need is one person willing to lend a hand,” Chen said. “It could make the difference between life and death.”

Shi Xiqing, another would-be jumper, who is now one of Chen’s best friends, agrees. “This bridge needs people like him,” Shi said. “Without him, I would not be here today.”

Article originally published May 2008. Three years later, Chen Si is still performing rescues.

comments powered by Disqus