Minnesota Strangers Band Together to Save Suicidal Woman From Jumping Off Bridge: 'I Was Hanging on to Her by Her T-shirt'

"I told her that I loved her and I would do anything for her if she needed my help," rescue leader Angela Martin tells PEOPLE

Photo: Patrick Strattner/Getty

Angela Martin was driving to pick up her daughter on Monday when she came upon a scene that stopped her dead in her tracks.

A woman had climbed the concrete wall of a bridge over St. Paul, Minnesota’s busy I-94 freeway and appeared to be preparing to jump. Martin knew she needed to act fast.

“I called the police and told them what was happening and then I said, ‘I’ve got to get off the phone and help because she’s getting ready to jump now,’ ” Martin, 50, tells PEOPLE.

Martin, a mother of two and grandmother of six, rushed to the woman and begged her not to jump.

“I kept telling her, ‘You don’t want to do this, you’ve got so much to live for,’ ” Martin says. “And just she just kept saying, ‘My mom doesn’t love me, my mom doesn’t love me.’ So I told her that I loved her and I would do anything for her if she needed my help.”

Martin’s hopes that her words were having an effect were dashed when the woman threw off her glasses and turned away from her to face the traffic below. By this point, Martin says she knew her words would not be enough.

“I grabbed on to her T-shirt through the chain link fence right before she let her hands go,” Martin says. “She was dangling from the fence and I was literally hanging on to her by her T-shirt and one belt loop.”

Recognizing that she couldn’t hold the woman up much longer, Martin yelled for help and even directed three onlookers to run down to the Interstate and stop traffic.

“One woman ran so fast and threw an orange barrel into oncoming traffic to stop it, and then she directed a van to stop below where the woman was so she would fall on the van if she did jump,” Martin says.

Then, a man rushed to Martin’s side to help her hold the woman up.

“I was holding her for as long as I could, but once I started yelling about 20 people got out of their cars and ran over to help,” Martin says. “In the end, there were about 50 people trying to help her and stop the traffic.”

Within minutes, police officers reached the scene and used wire cutters to cut a hole in the chain link fence around where the woman was hanging. After this, the group was able to pull the woman to safety.

“Once that happened, we all clapped,” Martin says. “It was so heartwarming, I always knew we had this kind of community, people just need to be asked.”

Paramedics gave the woman medical attention on the scene. She was then transported to a hospital for observation. Martin says there’s now a group of people ready to help the woman when she’s released.

“I think this instance shows the great compassion so many people in our community have,” Steve Linders, a spokesperson for the St. Paul Police tells PEOPLE. “People from all walks of life recognized that this woman was in the throes of a dark time and did whatever they could to save her life.”

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