Garrett O’Hanlon’s 22nd birthday celebration was a bit more exciting than he expected.
In the wee hours of Sunday morning, the Air Force Academy sophomore cadet was at a Manhattan subway station with his older sister, Agnes.
O’Hanlon, who turned 22 on Thursday, was enjoying a birthday trip to the Big Apple courtesy of their father. He and Agnes had a late dinner at a restaurant in Little Italy and were waiting to catch a ride back to her apartment.
While they chatted, a man stumbled and fell onto the tracks.
“From the corner of my eye, I saw somebody drop,” O’Hanlon said. “We heard screams. Everyone took a deep breath. It was kind of quiet, then everybody started worrying.”
He glanced at an electric sign that displayed the time until the next train’s arrival.
“The next thing you know, I’m in the middle of the tracks,” said O’Hanlon, who jumped down an estimated five feet to help the man.
He ran to the bleeding, unconscious man and tried to pick him up. He couldn’t. Before he knew it, two other men were helping him get the heavy man to safety.
“I remember looking back up, and the sign said zero minutes until the train is coming,” said O’Hanlon, who could see the train. “Usually you could hear the train on the tracks, but I was ignoring the sound. All we were trying to do was get this guy up.”
They hoisted the injured man onto the platform, then frantically made their way up, too.
“I started looking for my sister, and the next thing I know, the train passes,” said O’Hanlon, who is unsure if the train had been notified of the man on the tracks.
Paramedics found that the man was breathing, then took him away about 2:40 a.m.
The next morning, O’Hanlon wanted to check on the man’s condition, but he didn’t know his name.
None of the good Samaritans that night did, Garrett said.
“That’s actually the beauty of it,” he said. “Nobody knew this guy. But everybody was doing whatever they could to help this total stranger out. There were multiple people who put their lives in danger that night. That’s awesome.”
O’Hanlon returned to Colorado Springs on Monday and to classes at the Air Force Academy on Tuesday.
In the hallways, classmates have thanked him for what he did and yelled “hero” as he’s walked by.
He doesn’t think he’s one.
“When people ask me, ‘Why did you jump in?’ I say, ‘I think anybody would jump in,’” he said. “I just feel like it’s human nature. Nobody wants to see another person die.”