COMMENTARY — Sometimes, the most heroic moments happen when no one’s looking

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If there’s one thing certain about cops, it’s that they go about their business, each and every day, and never do they say, “I want to be the news today.” Sure, there are days when they become the news. Yet never set out to do that.

However, last week, we witnessed something that not only deserves recognition, it demands it, even though those involved would probably just say it was them doing their job. 

It happened on a bridge over the Passaic River, Monday, April 10. A person in East Newark was experiencing a major mental-health crisis. This person positioned themselves over the railing of the bridge, preparing, ultimately, to jump into the river and to an almost-certain death.

Kearny Police Sgt. Michael Gonzalez and East Newark Police Officer Junior Fiori were called to the scene. 

The incident was very difficult to watch (we saw recorded bodycam footage) — and most onlookers didn’t see it at all because nothing looked particularly out of the ordinary. But the person in question was clearly in a crisis, was crying and was unquestionably going to jump.

In the middle of it all, the person turned toward the river and in a millisecond of time, as they appeared ready to jump, Gonzalez and Fiori grabbed them and pulled them back over the railing to safety — without question saving a life direly in need of being saved.

From it, the person was given the mental-health help needed. And two of West Hudson’s Finest, who left home earlier that day without a clue of what would ultimately ensue, thought not of themselves, not of getting praise, not of being a hero. They simply saved a life. Can was say “all in a day’s work,” again? 

Yeah, but no. Because these are the moments the public rarely sees, often forget about when they do see it, but they are, nonetheless, stories that need to be told.

We live in a world — this is hardly shocking — where negative things are usually what create headlines. But the unsung moments rarely, if ever create headlines. 

So today, we take time to salute Gonzalez and Fiori. They sought no recognition for their heroic efforts, but their actions truly were completely heroic. And in a world like ours, we think it’s vitally important to take every opportunity to laud the good things. And that’s what we do here and now.

And we do so knowing the two men we salute today didn’t ask for this at all. But do they ever deserve such a salutation. Well done.

Kevin A. Canessa Jr.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.