“Why don’t you kill yourself?” her boyfriend told a distraught Lodi woman.
Hours later, the 24-year-old woman had climbed atop a bridge barrier above Route 17 in nearby Hasbrouck Heights and considered whether to jump.
Then Joey Fehl showed up.
Fehl, a Palisades Park firefighter who lives in town, faced his own ordeals. He came out the other side neither bitter nor discouraged.
So he knew where she was coming from.And she could sense it.
Fehl was driving down Route 46 with pal Thomas Mayer when he spotted her out of the corner of his eye shortly after 3:30 Wednesday afternoon.
“Why is that woman leaning over the bridge?" he wondered.
He turned his truck around to investigate, only now she was standing atop the concrete barrier above busy southbound Route 17.
Leaving Maher with his truck, Fehl approached her -- slowly.
“I’m a fireman, not a cop,” he said. “Can I talk to you?”
She said he could.
“You’re crying," he said, inching closer. "What’s the matter?”
It made her pause.
“Can you at least come off the ledge and talk to me?” Fehl said. “You’re life is too important for this. We can fix it, no matter what it is.”
She hesitated a bit, then climbed onto the metal guardrail below the barrier.
Progress, Fehl thought.
The woman said she'd walked around for nearly four hours before choosing that bridge.
She was still grieving a stillborn baby, she said, when her jealous boyfriend, thinking she was cheating, pushed her over the edge.
She repeated the words: “Why don’t you kill yourself?”
“He’s not worth it,” Fehl told her. “Nobody’s worth it.”
He waved Maher over as she spoke. This way his friend could keep her talking while Fehl called police.
“We all have issues,” Fehl said as they waited together.
He was a firefighter and first aid squad member in Wallington, he told her, when he was wrongly accused of a crime he didn't commit.
Although a judge threw out the case, the public damage had been done, he said.
Fehl didn’t feel sorry for himself. He picked up, moved to Hasbrouck Heights and eventually joined the Palisades Park Fire Department.
“I once lost everything,” he told the woman. “But now I have everything back -- and a lot to live for....Whatever happens to you, you can always fix it."
As they spoke, Hasbrouck Heights Police Officers John Cambridge and James Ciccarelli pulled up. EMS workers took the woman to New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus for an evaluation, Detective Lt. Michael Colaneri Jr. said.
“It was the first time I ever had to do something like that,” Fehl told Daily Voice on Thursday. “I wasn’t really thinking about it. I guess you see someone in trouble and it all kicks in.
“I hope she’s gonna be OK.”
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