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He leapt into action when a man threw himself on the train tracks

All the noise from the crowd and the trains quieted into a murmur. I had no time to second guess my decision or to hesitate. With every ounce of strength in my body, I reached towards the man and firmly grabbed his shoulders, yanking him up and positioning his body against the edge of the platform. The trains bore down on us, but all I could think about was saving his life.

  • 10 months ago
  • July 21, 2023
5 min read
On June 23, the Departmental Alcaidía Florencio Varela celebrated its second anniversary and recognized the actions of Alan Bergara, one of their members, for saving the life of a man who jumped onto the subway tracks in Argentina. On June 23, the Departmental Alcaidía Florencio Varela celebrated its second anniversary and recognized the actions of Alan Bergara, one of their members, for saving the life of a man who jumped onto the subway tracks in Argentina. | Photo courtesy of Alan Bergara
INTERVIEW SUBJECT
Alan Bergara lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His vocation for service arose from a very young age, influenced by members of his own family. In 2017, he entered the army as a soldier, calling it the two best years of his life. He was in the Regiment of Grenadiers on Horseback (Regiment number 1 of the cavalry weapon).

In 2021, he entered the Buenos Aires Penitentiary Service, at the Florencio Varela Departmental Alcaidía, where he currently works as the person in charge of the weapons room. He is in charge of safeguarding, caring for, and protecting all the weapons and security elements within the penitentiary unit.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Suicide is an important but often neglected public health problem, surrounded by stigma, myths, and taboos. Each year, thousands of people take their own lives. Some attempt suicide multiple times. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), the statistics correlate to one death every 40 seconds. For a list of global suicide hotlines click here.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — On May 30, 2023, I completed my 24-hour shift at work and made my way to the train station to deliver paperwork to the prison headquarters. At the bustling train station, a considerable crowd gathered due to a train delay. A man who appeared to be about 60 years old stood amongst them.

His demeanor seemed off and I thought, “He looks unwell.” I noticed him leaning on the railing of the station in what appeared to be a defensive posture. My instincts took over, alerting me that something was about to happen.

Read more stories from Argentina at Orato World Media 

Trains bore down on us from both directions

As the train approached the platform, the man rushed to the front of the crowd, pushing people out of the way. He edged closer to the place where the platform met the train tracks and suddenly, threw himself forward. In a split second, he lay sprawled out on the tracks below.

Panic ensued and a wave of commotion swept through the station. People cried out for help, but the bystanders seemed paralyzed. A chill moved through my bones. I had to do something. 

With no thought of the risks, I darted over to the edge of the platform. Trains approached from both sides. My vision narrowed into a tunnel as my army training kicked in. The world faded all around me as my entire focus remained solely on the man lying on the tracks.

All the noise from the crowd and the trains quieted into a murmur. I had no time to second guess my decision or to hesitate. With every ounce of strength in my body, I reached towards the man and firmly grabbed his shoulders, yanking him up and positioning his body against the edge of the platform.

The trains bore down on us, but all I could think about was saving his life. The adrenaline coursing through my veins seemed to give me superhuman strength.

Some say I should have let him die

The man appeared to be much larger than me. Yet, lifting him felt effortless. I pulled him up the rest of the way and out of immediate danger, then quickly pleaded with the crowd to help us. The Federal Police arrived on scene and escorted me out as they assessed the situation. 

As I walked away, my heart felt like it was pounding a thousand beats per second, and my legs shook uncontrollably. Very slowly, I began to process what I had just done. People rushed over to congratulate and thank me. Others said things like, “If he wanted to kill himself, you should have left him. You put your life at risk.”

Click here for a list of global suicide hotlines.

A feeling of sadness came over me as I heard their cold and uncaring comments. “Why do we live in this culture where people lack basic empathy,” I wondered. “Why do we fail to consider the well-being of others?”

I had no further contact with the man who threw himself onto the tracks, but I later learned his only injury was a blow to the head and he would recover just fine. Authorities provided both medical and psychological assistance.

Sometimes, I relive the entire scene in my head. I can still feel the rush of adrenaline that poured through my body.

In uniform or civilian clothes, we are always on duty

When I returned to work, my colleagues and superiors rallied around me, offering words of congratulations and calling me brave. It felt surreal. When they arranged a ceremony to honor my act, I felt proud – both for myself but also for the institution. So often, our work gets overlooked.

I joined the prison service because I heard about the efforts being made to reintegrate people back into society. I have always felt eager to help people in a positive way. Unlike the police, we carry out our responsibilities inside, often invisible to the public. Brining positive attention to the service felt incredible.

As a former Army man and now a prison employee, the training I have received readied me to handle the situation at the train station. I also leaned on tendencies I learned in my family. My mom works as a nurse, and I have relatives in the security forces. They never hesitate to do hard things.

I want people to know that serving as a public official means being on duty 24 hours a day. Whether in uniform or civilian clothes, the responsibility feels constant and unwavering. Every single person I ever met in an extreme circumstance leave an imprint on me. I carry those feelings with me every day.

I also feel grateful. Being able to spring into action during intense situations and fight those nerves leaves me with a sense of appreciation. I look forward to moving through my life and helping others I meet along the way.

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