About 30 years ago, my wife, Risa, was on the commuter train headed downtown for an appointment with her gynecologist. Suddenly the conductor was scurrying into the car. He shouted, “Anybody know CPR? A baby isn’t breathing.” Risa was trained in CPR and loves babies.
She jumped to her feet and followed him to the screaming mother, who happened to be African American. Everyone else sat still as statues.
The baby was covered in blood. She weighed 5 lb and was three weeks old. A young guy was holding her in one hand and doing chest compressions with two fingers.
Risa rushed to the non-breathing infant, put her mouth over her tiny nose and mouth, and began the resuscitation process.
It was the height of the AIDS epidemic, which was killing thousands, but she had no time to think. Maybe she could save the baby girl, while her mom looked on screaming.
Risa didn’t know if the baby was still coughing up blood, but she kept up her breathing while the young guy pressed gently with his two fingers.
The train soon stopped, and the infant started to breathe again. A helicopter landed, and the baby and mother were taken by air to Children’s Memorial Hospital.
Risa stayed on the train, dumbstruck by the events. She then rushed to her appointment and recounted the story to her doctor. He called Children’s Memorial Hospital and requested HIV and hepatitis tests for the baby. She found out later they were negative.
Risa and I have discussed the events of that day quite a bit since we saw the story about Daniel Penny, the 24-year-old man on the New York subway train, hit the news. Penny, who is white, restrained Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old black man, who was allegedly threatening to kill everybody in the train car. Everybody else at the scene had been paralyzed with fear.
Penny is a former Marine underwater instructor. He grabbed the ranting Neely and put him in a chokehold. A young Hispanic man held Neely’s legs. Neely had a long history of mental illness after his mother was murdered in 2007. He was also homeless.
Penny’s chokehold resulted in Neely’s death. Two and a half weeks after the events on the subway train, Daniel Penny was charged with manslaughter. He turned himself into the New York City Police and raised bail.
The two stories of Risa and Penny are far from identical. The three-week-old baby survived. The mom has connected with Risa periodically on Facebook to say that the baby she saved became a wonderful daughter. She also reunited with Risa on the Jenny Jones Show, which had an episode about people who had saved lives. The train story is still a powerful and unsettling memory for her to this day.
Daniel Penny could serve 18 years in jail if he is convicted. Al Sharpton is using the train car incident as an example of American racism. Did Daniel Penny, an ex-Marine, think about the potential negative consequences when he grabbed the ranting Jordan Neely, who was supposedly threatening to kill everybody in the train car? I’m not sure he knew, if Risa’s story of impulsivity is any parallel. Maybe we will find out, if the case ever goes to trial. Maybe.
How do you feel about the New York train car episode? From what you have read or heard, should 24-year-old Daniel Penny serve time in prison?
What would you have done in a similar situation?
Question: What stories do you have about someone risking their life to help a stranger?