California woman looking for the two 'anonymous heroes' that saved her from suicide

By Rose Minutaglio
Updated December 24, 2015 03:10 PM
Courtesy Rebecca Chamaa

One dark, drizzly evening in 1997, the voices inside 28-year-old Rebecca Chamaa’s head told her to kill herself.

Chamaa, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the time, got in her car and drove from her Tacoma, Washington, house to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge – ready to jump. Ready to end her life.

As she stood looking into the water, listening to the internal taunts, she felt a man’s arm reach out to her. She heard him say, “Give me your hand.” Then he pulled her away from the bridge’s edge and to safety.

But the voices inside her head wouldn’t let up, and the torment continued. After driving back home, Chamaa took every pill she could find in her house and got back in her car – headed to a Columbia river cliff, with the intention to jump.

Chamaa passed out while driving, but remembers a different man coming to her car, which stuck on the side of the highway, and waiting by her side until an ambulance arrived. The last thing she recalls from that night is the mystery man asking the medics, “Is she going to live?”

“I was saved that night two separate times by two stranger angels,” Chamaa, now 50, tells PEOPLE. “I never got their names and I never got to thank them.”

For Christmas this year, Chamaa, who was correctly diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia after her double suicide attempt, wrote a letter to Santa asking him to deliver a message to her saviors.

“I don t know if they were angels in human form or human or just angel but magic was in the air, God wanted me to live that night,” she says. “I just want to finally be able to thank them. Because of them I was able to live my life and meet the love of my life.”

After that dark night in 1997, Chamaa turned her life around – she started taking her medication, got married to her high school sweetheart and held a job for years as a social worker helping children and the homeless.

To her, those two anonymous heroes not only saved her life – they also allowed her to finally find peace within herself.

It took Chamaa, who now lives in San Diego, 18 years to build the courage to write the thank-you letter, below:

To the two men who saved my life,

You are directly responsible for giving me the opportunity to find the love of my life and experience 17 years of marital happiness. My husband and I are grateful.

You are directly responsible for giving me almost two more decades with my family (hopefully, there will be more). My family and I are grateful.

You are directly responsible for serving the elderly, the homeless, and college students in the jobs I have had since you saved my life. I am sure there are people whose lives I have impacted in a positive way that would be grateful.

You are directly responsible for the blog that I have been keeping over the last nine months that encourages, educates, and uplifts people living with, or caring for someone with, a severe mental illness.

You are directly responsible for allowing me to become and be a good friend to many people.

You are directly responsible for the woman I let get in front of me in the grocery line last night. You are directly responsible for the surprise, gratitude, and appreciation people have shown when I randomly bought their coffee or groceries, and for the neighbors who I have babysat for, made cakes for, and brought soup to when they were sick.

I am an average person, but in an average life, many people are touched, changed, loved, helped, and made to feel special or cared for.

I m not going to save the planet or solve world hunger, but the past 18 years have been the best of my life, and I have tried to live with an attitude of gratitude and generosity. You made a remarkable difference in so many people s lives kept some from grieving, helped some find love, helped some find jobs, comforted others.

You never left your name so I could thank you in person, but I know Santa has his ways, so I ll leave it in his hands.

I just wanted to tell you how much your choice on that night back in 1997 mattered. It mattered to a lot of people. It continues to matter. I am so thankful for the two of you.

I hope this letter finds you healthy and happy. Your kindness, compassion and concern have literally given me life. I don t have anything but stories to share with you I hope they will lift your heart.

Merry Christmas.

“I didn t admit to anyone that I had paranoid schizophrenia for years,” she says. “I only just came out publicly to my friends and family this year. I felt brave enough to do it, and now that I have, I know it’s time to try and find my heroes to thank them.”

Chamaa, now a mental health advocate, writes about surviving schizophrenia in her blog A Journey With You and is working towards a creative non-fiction degree at UCLA.

“If this letter can reach one suicidal person, I want them to know something good is around the corner,” she says. “Something you can’t even imagine, something you could never imagine, may be just around the corner for you. You matter, your life matters.”