“Forget what hurt you in the past, but never forget what it taught you.”
Firefighter Kenneth Fraser has been able to apply this sincere quote from an unknown artist to his own life, both on and off duty. On January 24, 2017, while off duty, heading home from the LAFD’s Geographic Information System Unit where he had been training, he was exiting the 101 Freeway at Hollywood Boulevard when he saw a middle-aged man on the overpass ledge. The man appeared to be planning to jump.
Though he had been on the job for less than six months, Fraser instinctively switched to first- responder mode. He pulled his car over, shouted for someone to call 9-1-1, and attempted to clear the crowd that had gathered around the jumper.
Finally making access to the potential jumper, he noticed that the agitated man was already over the gate and on the ledge, legs dangling below him. Though the man resisted Fraser’s advances, telling him repeatedly to back away, Fraser persisted, convinced that if he could get the man talking, it would keep him from jumping.
Establishing a rapport with the victim
Minutes into their conversation, the LAPD arrived, sirens blaring. Their dramatic entrance seemed to frighten the man, causing him to recoiled from Fraser and tell him once more to back away. Respecting the man’s wishes, Fraser stepped away from the distraught man and went and spoke with the arriving police officer. Explaining the situation to them, Fraser made it clear to them that he had already established a rapport with the man. Convinced, the officers gave him the all-clear to continue.
When Fraser returned to the man, he adopted a new approach. Fraser asked the man if he could trust him, rather than vice-versa. Once he assured Fraser that he was trustworthy, Fraser proceeded to disclose details of his difficult upbringing—details he had not shared with others. He spoke genuinely and from the heart, sharing intimate details about the passing of his father and much more. Only once he concluded his own story, did Fraser ask if the man returned his trust.
Firefighter Kenneth Fraser awarded a Special Commendation
Ultimately, the new firefighter was able to reveal his own perseverance through hardship to create a genuine connection with the jumper. After over an hour of talking and negotiating, he was able to convince the man to climb back over the ledge. By that point, the man had begun to lose his grip, and expressed fear that he was going to fall. Fraser shouted to the LAFD companies that were on-scene to cut the fence and pull the man to safety.
To this day, Fraser regularly thinks about the man and worries about his well-being. “If I help someone today, but not tomorrow,” he says, “then my job’s not finished.”
For his compassionate effort in assisting a man in need, the Los Angeles Fire Department presented Firefighter Kenneth Fraser with a Special Commendation.
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