It's never easy in a pressure-filled situation to keep a clear head, much less combine creativity and compassion in a way that honors your entire profession. Yet Minnesota State Trooper Carl Hoffman and his law enforcement colleagues did exactly that Monday morning when they stopped a suicidal man from leaping off an Interstate 94 overpass in Minneapolis.
It's not hard to imagine the honks and angry looks from drivers who were unexpectedly stuck in I-94 traffic around 10 a.m. Law enforcement officers called to the scene encountered a man clinging to a fence who looked like he was ready to let go and plunge to the pavement below.
While police and firefighters tried to grab the man, Hoffman flashed back to training in which lining up semitrailer trucks underneath a bridge had been mentioned as one way to shorten a fall.
There were big rigs trapped in the I-94 traffic. The logistics of lining them up under the overpass had to have been daunting, but Hoffman and fellow trooper Ben Berkowitz made it happen with the help of skilled truck drivers who managed to maneuver their rigs into place. Even when the man began moving to find a clear spot to jump, Hoffman persisted, getting more trucks under the overpass. All told, six trucks joined the effort.
Hoffman's calm creativity and the drivers' cooperation helped deter a potentially fatal fall. Meanwhile, police and fire personnel on the overpass above courageously worked to grab the man -- a daring effort that involved cutting a hole in the overpass fence and leaning over from the top when the man came near them. They managed to pull him to safety, and he was taken to a nearby hospital for medical care.
The Minneapolis Police Department issued a statement Monday afternoon saying that the city was "extremely proud of these police and fire personnel who risked their lives to save a despondent man."
The officers' outstanding work offered a timely reminder that citizens here have a long history of coming together and using ingenuity to overcome crises large and small. Hoffman, his fellow officers and the truck drivers represented the best of Minnesota as they collaborated on the spot to save a life. The entire state can be proud of their quick thinking, dedication and compassion.
Jill Burcum is a Star Tribune editorial writer.