'I hadn't gone very far before I had to fall on the grass'


Dear Diary:

It was a spring weekend morning about 20 years ago and I was running in Fort Tryon Park.

Looking to my right as I ran toward the Cloisters Museum along the trail overlooking the Hudson River, I noticed a commotion near a parked van. I decided to take a closer look.

I ran and saw a man waving his arms as if asking for help and a woman getting out of the truck who seemed to be in danger.

Somehow, I knew he was drowning.

The man shouted frantically in Spanish. Without speaking the language, I shouted “Heimlich” and pantomimed the maneuver.

He didn't seem to understand, so I told him to call 911, got behind the woman, reached out with both arms, and pulled her toward me. (I had never done the Heimlich maneuver before.)

After a couple of tries, I heard a clicking sound. Something had come loose. The emergency was over.

As I caught my breath, the man and woman caught theirs as they thanked me with big smiles on their faces.

I wished them well and ran. I hadn't gone very far when I had to fall on the grass. My legs were like jelly.

When I got home, I told my wife and children what had happened. Later, I told some friends and coworkers. What a story, everyone said.

About a year later, I went running again. It was Mother's Day, the weather was nice, and the park was full of families.

Looking to my left as I walked around the back of the Cloisters, I noticed a man and woman with a stroller walking towards me.

They began to wave and quicken their pace in my direction. Confused, I stopped and they approached. The child in the stroller was a baby.

“We were here last year,” the man said in broken English. My wife was in trouble. You helped her.

I was stunned.

“She was pregnant,” he continued. This is our baby.

I was speechless.

As editor of Metropolitan Diary, I spend a lot of time verifying the data presented as carefully as possible to ensure the accuracy and authenticity of what we publish.

Some stories, like the one I've told here and some included in this year's “best of” contest, are nearly impossible to verify. For those, we must trust the authors to vouch for them by answering three standard questions: Has your article been published before? It is original? Is it all true?

Now it's my turn, so let me say: No. Yes. And absolutely. Sometimes, I've learned, the serendipity of life in New York City isn't too good to be true.

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