Reporter Kevin Castle of the Kingsport Times-News tells the story of Moriah May, who survived a December 2007 suicide attempt when she was 21 years old. His report illustrates a suicidal person’s back-and-forth struggle between the urge to die and the desire to live, and it describes her rescue by a real-life hero, an 18-year-old who pulled May from her sinking car in Tennessee’s Fort Patrick Henry Lake.
May put her Kia Rio in gear and drove into the cold lake waters.
“I mean, it was like something took control, made me touch the gas (pedal) and drive. That was something that I could never imagine that I could do,” she said.
“But there I was in this zombie-like state, and I never saw anyone around when I was going into the water, and I thought that no one was going to be there. It was December, and I thought there weren’t many people around, but suddenly all of these people were near the bank.”
One person who saw the car go into the water was Lindsey Witherspoon, a King College student, swim team member, and former pool lifeguard. She jumped into the frigid waters and swam to the car …
As water filled the car, May’s desire to die turned into a fight for survival.
“Water was starting to rise … going into my nose and throat. That’s when panic took me,” May said.
May broke a window to escape from the car, and Witherspoon, who was 18 at the time, helped her get safely to shore. Then another woman, whose name May still doesn’t know, comforted her.
“This woman, she’s an older lady and I didn’t get a real good look at her face, but she just hugged me. I kept trying to push her away … and she just held onto me, like she knew that I was just breaking,” said May.
“She was moving my hair out of the way, kind of stroking it, and saying, ‘You’re beautiful. You’re a beautiful person. Why do you think you have to do this?’ And I said ‘because I’m gay’ and she said ‘God is not going to turn you away because you are gay.’
“It was just an inspiration to me that day to see a stranger just take me in like that. I didn’t feel like I deserved to be alive. This woman made me feel like I deserved to be here, and that was amazing. From that day, I felt like I should be alive.”
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