City employee, homeless man pull despondent woman to safety

Woman tries to jump from Monona Terrace rooftop
City employee, homeless man pull despondent woman to safety

An observant city housing employee and homeless man are both being called heroes after rescuing  a woman on the verge of committing suicide.

The ordeal unfolded Monday at the Monona Terrace. Sadie Villegas silently looked over the railing out at Lake Monona as she remembered the incident.

“The way the weather is right now, it feels just like that day,” she said.

Friday is the first time she’s returned to the balcony after pulling a woman to safety on Monday. She works for the city’s Community Development Authority.

While working, she met with a woman who was distraught over problems at home and made comments about ending her life.

“When we walked out into the lobby of the building and she turned to me and said, ‘Please give this to my husband,’ and handed me her wallet, just that sinking feeling in your gut, I just knew,” Villegas said.

Villegas quietly followed the woman out of her office to the balcony of the Monona Terrace.

“She didn’t stop for a second,” she said. “She just came and put both hands here and put her leg up, that’s when I just knew, so I grabbed her and started pulling on her.”

James Lofton,  a homeless veteran, was nearby.

“I heard her yelling, ‘Help, help me,’ so I came over here,” Lofton said.

He helped Sadie pry the woman off the balcony and held her there until police arrived. Madison Police Officers Cindy Thiesenhusen and Tammi Droessler were first on the scene.

“We’re trained to save lives, but we don’t expect the public to come up and be our heroes, and that’s what Sadie and James were,” said Thiesenhusen.

“There’s a lot of good people in Madison, and sometimes doing our job, we don’t see that. Situations like this really stand out to us, because when the citizens work with us, the whole community benefits,” said Droessler.

Villegas had a chance to meet with the woman at the hospital and she thanked her for saving her life. She’s optimistic the woman is getting the help she needs.

“Through all of this, we are connected and we’ll be a part of each other’s lives, the three of us, I think forever,” Villegas said.

She said she hopes the two can go back to the terrace one day when she’s ready. Villegas added it’s strange being called a hero, saying her background in counseling helped her recognize the signs of a person in trouble.