For the second time in a week, a man falls onto the New York subway tracks in front of an oncoming train.
The first time, of course, was very heavily publicized … in no small part because the man was pushed, because he wasn’t helped by onlookers, and because he was killed by the train.
This time, however, another man jumped down onto the tracks to help and then was himself assisted by several other onlookers:
[Victor] Samuel, a Queens father of two, was yanked to safety from the tracks of the Bowling Green station after risking his life to save a dazed drifter from an oncoming No. 5 train.
Now he hopes to get together aboveground with Doreen Winkler, the diminutive Brooklynite whose efforts spared Samuel and the second man from dying beneath the subway wheels.
Samuel, speaking Saturday to the Daily News, said the two could ideally meet for coffee in a less “stressful” situation to discuss their lifesaving efforts. He’s already contacted her through the Internet.
And he sent along thanks to the others on the platform who pulled him and Jack Simmons, 64, from the tracks.
The rescue was “a collective effort,” he said. “I really want to give credit to a lot people for helping out.”
The 43-year-old good Samaritan doesn’t regret his decision to make the Thursday night leap — even as thoughts of Monday’s subway death of Ki-Suck Han flashed through his mind.
“I had to make a very split-second decision … literally just a split-second decision to go in there,” he said of jumping down on the tracks. “I’d really rather not be in the spotlight for it.”
The 5-foot-2 Winkler, who moved to Brooklyn four years ago from Germany, was among the frantic crowd on the platform.
She described grabbing both men by their arms and yanking with an adrenaline rush as two other woman assisted the rescue on the northbound platform.
There hasn’t been nearly as much discussion of this successful rescue effort and, given my post yesterday about people standing by rather than helping, I thought it was important to see if we might get some insight into how people can — and often do — come to the assistance of others:
The 5-foot-2 Brooklynite wept Friday when recounting her adrenalized effort as visions of this week’s fatal subway shove ran through her head.
“I had one arm each of each man,” she told the Daily News. “I was freaking out that nobody was helping at first.”
Her heroics elicited applause from fellow straphangers — mere seconds after the lower Manhattan subway station echoed with screams and gasps of horror.
“You can’t ever, ever, ever watch somebody die,” said Winkler, who moved to New York four years ago from Hamburg, Germany.
Winkler said she couldn’t shake the image of Ki-Suck Han, 58, pushed into the path of an oncoming train Monday afternoon in midtown. The Korean immigrant was killed before anyone could come to his aid.
“Not again,” she said. “The whole time in my head, not again. I kept thinking I’m going to watch him die.”
This story has me wondering a couple of things:
1. How much Winkler’s personal history, as a German who recently moved to New York, factored into her feeling that it was necessary to assist someone in need and how much she was influenced by the image of Ki-Suck Han’s death earlier in the week.
2. Relatedly, whether it matters more that almost no one is paying attention to this story where people helped or that everyone paid so much attention to the story about no one helping. In other words, are we more likely to encourage helping behavior by highlighting stories where people act heroically or where they fail to do so?
I don’t yet know my answer and I can see a plausible argument for both sides of this question. I’ll be thinking about it all week and we’ll discuss it on the Hero Report podcast on Friday afternoon at 4pm Eastern (which you’ll be able to watch and on which you can comment live, either here on my blog or on Google+). In the meantime, I hope you’ll send me your thoughts … either with Tumblr’s Ask feature, via the blog’s Facebook page, using the Disqus comment feature at the bottom of this post, in 140 characters on Twitter, or via email.
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