By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Denver resident Michael Zamora played god.
He walked up to an RTD bus stop at Colfax and Broadway on a cool, sunny Friday in October, walked into the pedestrian shelter, pulled out his trusty pocket knife and cut a man down from sure death.
Zamora had walked into a shocking scene. A fellow citizen had tied a leather belt around his neck and attempted to hang himself right there at the bus stop.
It was mid-afternoon at one of Denver’s busiest intersections. Citizens all around walked past the despondent man who was hanging from a belt in the middle of the city, his eyes rolled into the back of his head.
But not Zamora. He wasn’t going to let this individual slip away into nothing. Pulling out a pocket knife that his grandfather ordered that he keep on him at all times, Zamora cut the man down, saving his life.
He then called 9-1-1 and waited with the man until police and paramedics arrived. The man was in critical condition at the time, but he has recovered.
The Denver Daily News will not release the name of the man who attempted suicide because of the personal and sensitive nature of the incident.
A nonchalant Zamora happily accepted a check for $1,000 Tuesday from the Daniels Fund for being a “Neighborhood Hero.” He described his action as a simple call of duty.
“I was more in shock than anything else,” said Zamora. “It’s not like you see that every day.”
Zamora, a chef at a local Italian restaurant, even made it into work that day — a little late, but he showed up nonetheless.
Police Tuesday called a news conference to both honor Zamora as a hero, and raise awareness to the pain and realities of suicide. Colorado ranks ninth in the nation for suicide, with a rate of 15.4 per 100,000 people.
Experts say there are certain signs to look for in diagnosing suicide risk:
• Talking or writing about suicide;
• Manic changes in mood;
• Acting anxious, depressed or angry;
• Withdrawing from family and friends;
• Too little or too much sleep;
• Engaging in risky behavior; and
• Increased use of drugs and alcohol.
Authorities say the best thing someone can do to prevent suicide is to call a prevention hotline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK, or the National Hopeline Network, 1-800-SUICIDE.
Sgt. Anthony Montoya, the supervising officer on scene when Zamora saved the man’s life, said it was remarkable what Zamora did given the fact that so many other citizens failed to jump into action.
“There was hundreds of people around him at the time this happened and he was the only one who stepped up,” said Montoya.
Meanwhile, Zamora’s family said they were surprised to hear about the incident, calling their son and brother a “very private person.”
“It’s not every day you have the opportunity to save someone’s life,” said Yesenia Zamora, Michael Zamora’s sister. “We’re very proud of him.”
Tuesday was the first time Michael Zamora had been separated from his trusty pocket knife in years, he said. Police temporarily confiscated it from him when he walked through the metal detector to attend the news conference at Denver Police Headquarters. Don’t worry, the cops gave it back after the news conference.
As for the $1,000 gift: “I guess I’ll have a little better Christmas this year,” said Zamora.
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters