Something You May Not Know About Radio Host Howard Stern. I Had No Idea.
This article is based on "Shock Jock Howard Stern Stops Caller's Suicide Leap". If you're interested in reading more, check out the links at the bottom of the article.
It's Wednesday December 7th, 1994. Radio and television personality Howard Stern arrives at WXRK station to start his morning radio show, The Howard Stern Show. The morning talk show has been on the air since 1986 and has grown to be the number one show in New York City and Los Angeles.
The introduction and first segment are going as planned until they open the lines and a man calls in. It's 29-year-old Emilio Bonilla who is threatening to jump off the George Washington bridge.
Stern is quick to act. He first thinks that it must be a hoax or a joke and asks listeners on the bridge to honk their horns. One driver beeps his horn and Howard hears it through the phone, confirming that there is indeed a man about to commit suicide. The situation has escalated.
He immediately engages the man in conversation. He will later be quoted saying "Once I determined this was a jumper, I said: 'I have to keep this man laughing . . . until the cops get there." Frantically thinking of what would make the man reconsider the idea, Howard reminds Bonilla that he has a movie coming out and Bonilla would miss it if he dies. Bonilla laughs and says "Hey, wait a second. Maybe I should stay around for the movie."
Police Lt. Stanley Bleeker had been listening to the show in his off time and quickly contacts the police station to dispatch officers to the scene.
The police arrive to find Helen Trimble also at the side the bridge. She had been listening to the show in her car and realizing how close she was to Bonilla, went over to the side of the railing and grabbed him in a bear hug to prevent him from jumping.
At this point Stern has calmed Bonilla down enough that he can see the situation more clearly and speak to the officers. The police convince him to back off the bridge and take him to a local hospital for psychiatric evaluation. He would later be charged with cocaine possession and reckless endangerment.
Shortly afterwards the police get in touch with Stern to offer their thanks and congratulations. Howard accepts saying, "Who better to help someone who is psychologically disturbed than Howard Stern, who himself is psychologically disturbed?"
Had Stern not taken the situation so seriously and thought quickly to engage Bonilla, remind him of what's important in life, and keep him focused on the conversation rather the bridge that he probably would have jumped. Sometimes saving a life is as simple as reaching out and showing that you care.
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