‘I Hadn’t Gone Far When I Had to Flop Down in the Grass’

Credit…Agnes Lee

Fort Tryon Park

Dear Diary:

It was a spring weekend morning about 20 years ago, and I was jogging in Fort Tryon Park.

Glancing to my right as I ran toward the Cloisters museum along the path that overlooks the Hudson River, I noticed a commotion near a parked van. I decided to get a closer look.

I jogged over and saw a man waving his arms as if signaling for help and a woman exiting the van who appeared to be in distress.

Somehow, I knew she was choking.

The man was yelling frantically in Spanish. Not speaking the language, I yelled back “Heimlich” and pantomimed the maneuver.

He didn’t seem to understand, so, telling him to call 911, I stepped behind the woman, reached around with both arms and pulled toward me. (I had never done the Heimlich maneuver before.)

After a couple of tries, I heard a popping sound. Something had been dislodged. The emergency was over.

As I caught my breath, the man and the woman caught theirs in between thanking me with big smiles on their faces.

I wished them well and jogged off. I hadn’t gone far when I had to flop down in the grass. My legs were like jelly.

When I got home, I told my wife and kids what had happened. Later, I told a few friends and co-workers. Quite a story, everyone said.

About a year later, I was out jogging again. It was Mother’s Day, the weather was nice and the park was crowded with families.

Looking to my left as I came around the back side of the Cloisters, I noticed a man and a woman with a stroller walking toward me.

They began to wave and quicken their pace in my direction. Confused, I stopped, and they came closer. The child in the stroller was an infant.

We were here last year, the man said in broken English. My wife was in trouble. You helped her.

I was stunned.

She was pregnant, he continued. This is our baby.

I was speechless.

As the editor of Metropolitan Diary, I spend a good deal of time fact-checking submissions as carefully as possible to ensure the accuracy and authenticity of what we publish.

Some stories, like the one I’ve told here and some included in this year’s “best of” contest, are nearly impossible to check. For those, we must put our faith in the authors to vouch for them by answering three standard questions: Has your item been published before? Is it original? Is it all true?

Now it’s my turn, so let me just say: No. Yes. And absolutely. Sometimes, I’ve learned, the serendipity of life in New York City isn’t too good to be true.

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