Jason Gaebel and Kwame Anderson don’t usually cross the bridge over Interstate 94 in St. Paul, Minn. But this Wednesday morning, for no reason in particular, the beer deliverymen decided to take a different route, they told local news stations.
After dropping off a shipment of beer at a sports bar nearby, Gaebel steered the truck onto the bridge, crossing over the busy highway below. Then, they spotted a man standing on the bridge’s ledge on the other side of the fence.
“Bro, you alright?” Gaebel, the driver of the beer truck, shouted out the window, as Anderson filmed on his phone. “Come on this side, bro.”
Facing them, the man on the ledge responded that he was going to take his own life. Anderson cut the video, and called 911.
The dispatcher told him to hold off until police arrived, but Anderson couldn’t stand the wait.
“I’m thinking it’s either I help this guy or he’s going to jump,” he later told KMSP. “I gotta keep this guy entertained somehow because if I wait for police, things could be over.”
The first thought that came to his mind was, of all things, Denzel Washington. He recalled the movie “Inside Man,” in which Washington plays a hostage negotiator for the New York Police Department.
“I was like, alright. I gotta be the negotiator,” Anderson told KSTP.
So for the next hour, even after police arrived, Anderson talked to the man. He asked him his name, where he grew up, whether he had kids. He found out the man lived about four blocks from the bridge, that he had children and that he was originally from Chicago.
“Chicago’s tough,” the man told Anderson, he told the Pioneer Press.
“I grew up on the East Side of St. Paul, in the hood just like you,” Anderson said he responded.
At some point, St. Paul police officers and other authorities arrived and closed the eastbound lane of the bridge, the Pioneer Press reported.
Anderson kept asking the man questions: Did he want any food? Did the man want to eat something with him? He replied that he wasn’t hungry.
“Do you need any money?” Anderson asked, he recalled to KARE 11. The man said he didn’t.
“Do you want to have a drink with me?” Anderson asked. The man paused.
“Yeah? A beer?” Anderson pressed.
“Maybe,” the man responded.
As the officers continued distracting the man, Anderson rushed to the beer truck, grabbing a 12-pack of Coors Light.
He brought the case of beer to the bridge’s ledge, opened it, and told the man that if he climbed down from there, the 12-pack was all his.
The man agreed, slowly retreating to safety, where emergency responders placed him in an ambulance and transported him to a hospital.
After he finished speaking with the police officers, Anderson started filming on his phone again.
“We just talked a guy off a ledge with some beer,” Anderson said. Officers smiled for the camera, giving him a thumb’s up. “Nice job, Kwame,” one officer said.
“It’s a good day,” Anderson said.
He later told KMSP that he was “extremely relieved.”
“I knew that when I saw him standing here, I wasn’t going to leave until he came off,” Anderson said.
Police authorities, along with hundreds of others on Facebook, commended Anderson for stepping in.
“The really good thing is that this person driving by saw what was going on, recognized a person who was in crisis and recognized that he could make a difference for them by stopping and talking,” Sgt. Mike Ernster, a St. Paul police spokesman, told KMSP.
Their employer, Breakthru Beverage, a distributor of beer, wine and spirits, posted on Facebook praising the work of Anderson and Gaebel.
“Not all superheroes wear capes, or even have super powers. Some heroes simply stop and offer to help someone in need,” Breakthru Beverage Minnesota wrote. “We are honored to employ two incredible heroes.”
It’s impossible to know exactly what changed the man’s mind as he stood on that ledge. But one important factor was not lost on law enforcement authorities.
“Beer has been bringing people together for a long, long time,” Ernster, the police spokesman, told the Pioneer Press. “Today, it brought people together in a life-saving way.”
Several of Anderson’s friends on Facebook agreed. “Some people just need an ear and a beer,” one person commented.
“We need more like you,” wrote another. “We all learned a valuable lesson today. Always keep beer handy.”
The man ultimately didn’t have a chance to share a Coors Light with Anderson on Wednesday. But Anderson, who is also a comedian, said he invited his new acquaintance to one of his shows.
“I told him he needs a laugh,” Anderson said. “I’ll make sure he gets a beer.”
This article was written by Samantha Schmidt, a reporter for The Washington Post.