| North Carolina leak detection specialist's compassion saves a life
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North Carolina leak detection specialist's compassion saves a life

Carrying the sadness of losing a family member to suicide guided a North Carolina water department professional to reach out to a stranger he saw lingering at the edge of a highway overpass.

Anthony The compassion of his action saved a life.

Anthony “Buzz” Brown with the City of Asheville’s Water Resources Department was driving down a local road in his truck earlier this month, carrying out his work as a leak detection specialist, when he passed by a man standing on bridge, looking down at the vehicles whizzing past on Interstate 40. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Brown)

Noticing that the man seemed distressed, Brown didn’t hesitate to turn around, drive back, get out of his truck and approach him. 

“I told him my name. I asked him for his name,” Brown said during an interview with a local news station. “He told me there was nothing I could do to help him or save him."

“The thing that upset me the most was how many people drove by him knowing the condition he was in,” added Brown, whose brother, Cornelius, took his own life at age 22 while studying law at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. 

Brown said he told the man he wasn’t there to judge him, and that he cared. He told him he had a story to tell him and he needed to listen.

Asheville highway overpassAs Brown told the man about Cornelius, the man started describing the troubles he was going through. Eventually they both slowly walked away from the overpass and back toward Brown’s truck. Asheville police arrived shortly after and transported the man to get medical assistance. (Photo of overpass bridge, credit WLOS staff)

“The pain of losing my brother never really goes away,” Brown said. “It gets easier every day, but the pain never really goes away.”

Brown, who has worked with the city for 15 years, was recognized by the Asheville police and city council for helping rescue a stranger in need. 

“I am confident without Anthony stopping and talking with the man, he may have possibly jumped before officers arrived on scene,” said a statement from the Asheville police officer who responded to the scene. “Anthony very well saved a life today and should be recognized for his actions.”

David Melton, director of water resources for the City of Asheville and an AWWA member, said, “Buzz’s actions were incredible and represent the caliber and compassion of teammates within our industry.”

Losing Cornelius “was one of the most devastating things that happened to our family,” Brown said. “I just hope I can help anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide, or anyone who is thinking about suicide. There is hope out there and they are not alone. We have to do this for one another.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-8255, is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.