VERONA, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New Jersey police chief was looking back Thursday on his efforts to save a suicidal woman thousands of miles away in Italy.
As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, the woman he saved gave thanks in an email several days later.
But that did not stop Chief of Police Mitchell Stern.
Stern said the department received the email on Thursday, April 14 from a Chinese student in the United Kingdom. He was concerned about another Chinese student at the Verona Academy of Fine Arts in Italy.
“He was conversing on a chat app — a messaging app — with another Chinese student, female, in Verona — and that she was in process of possibly committing suicide,” Stern said.
Stern figured out that the friend was trying to contact the police department in Verona, Italy, and not the department for his Essex County, New Jersey township. But he still stepped into action, knowing that time was of the essence.
He could not get through to the Verona, Italy police department, so he tried the Italian embassy in New York. It was after hours, so Stern then called New Jersey State Police and was able to find a contact at Interpol in Washington, D.C.
That contact in turn sent the desperate message to Interpol in Italy.
“Ultimately, the Italian state police responded to assist this young woman,” Stern said. “She had taken some pills and she had attempted to hurt herself physical. They transported her to hospital.”
On Tuesday, the woman – who survived thanks to the chief’s relentless calls for help – wrote him an email. Stern read it out loud to CBS2’s Baker.
“I am the girl from China who got saved by you, now in Verona, Italy,” the email read. “Though we don’t know each other before, you did really help me a lot. I believe there is millions of people like you. The lucky thing is that I have a chance to write this letter to you and say thank you. No wonder I begin to enjoy everything around me. Life is brilliant.”
All Verona, New Jersey officers get special training to deal with delicate circumstances such as the ones Stern encountered.
“We go to multiple in service classes to familiarize ourselves with situations like this, and he did a good job remembering his training,” said Verona police Officer Brendan Huber.
Stern was humble about his own role.
“It’s great that I helped with this, but I also want to remember; everybody needs to remember – that it wasn’t just me. It was everybody from the start, including girl who had the courage to tell her friend, and then her friend who emailed me,” he said.
The chief said his department had a similar situation in town just last week, and that this is not just a tale of two Veronas. He said someone in your town may be seeking help as well.
The chief asked that anyone with thoughts of harming themselves take time to talk with someone – a friend, a counselor, or even your local chief of police.
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