By Sue Botos
Rocky River police officer Kim Forkins laughs when asked if she has always wanted a career in law enforcement. She said that growing up on Cleveland’s West Side, her friends were more convinced than she was that she would end up wearing a blue uniform.
Fortunately for one young Rocky River woman, Forkins took her friends’ advice.
On Aug. 10, during the beginning of the Interstate 90 rush hour, Forkins climbed to the outside of the fence atop the Wooster Road bridge, which crosses the highway. For about 15 minutes, she held onto a despondent woman who had climbed over the barrier and was clinging to the chain-link fence.
As a result, according to Police Chief Kelly Stillman, Forkins will be receiving a pair of heroism awards at two ceremonies in November, one from the American Red Cross and the other from the FBI Citizens’ Police Academy.
“I heard the 911 call come in, and I ran out to my car,” said Forkins of the alert shortly after 4 p.m., which originally directed police to the Hilliard Road bridge over I-90. “As we were passing (Wooster Road), we saw all the people and figured it out.”
The 18-year veteran of the Rocky River force continued, “We pulled up and she was on the outside of the railing holding on.” Forkins added that several drivers crossing the bridge had stopped, pulled parts of the woman’s clothing through the chain link and were holding on. “While they were doing that, we grabbed a rope bag, that we use for water rescues, pulled some rope out and kind of got it over her,” recalled Forkins, who said a second rope bag was then implemented.
“She was not talking to anyone. She was very despondent and not paying attention,” said Forkins of the woman’s demeanor.
“By this time, people on the highway had stopped, which was very nice of them,” remarked Forkins, who said the gathering crowd was supportive, calling out to the woman and urging her not to jump.
Forkins said an off-duty sheriff’s department officer soon arrived and backed his truck up to the fence so that officers could reach over it and hold onto the woman, who was rather limp and having difficulty holding on. A ladder was also placed in the truck bed to give officers more traction.
Soon the interstate was closed — not by police, but by citizens. “We sent on officer down to make sure nobody moved,” recalled Forkins.
Then, tied securely to a rope held by officer Bill Dawson, Forkins made her way to the outside of the fence, where she held onto the woman for about 15 minutes, until the fire department arrived with a bucket truck and the woman was lowered in and removed. Forkins added that a semi driver also parked his rig beneath the bridge to cut down the distance should someone fall. “Too bad he wasn’t carrying mattresses,” she quipped.
Forkins said that the decision to physically restrain the woman came about because she posed no threat to her rescuers.
“This was one that we felt was not a risk to anyone but herself,” said Forkins, adding that the “talk down” method is used on more argumentative people. “This one was more, like, ‘Let’s just make sure she’s OK,’” said Forkins.
Asked what was going through her mind at the time, Forkins recalled, “You really don’t think.”
Forkins said credit for the rescue should go to all involved. “(The awards) really should be for all the guys. It was a huge group effort. Everything worked really smoothly,” said Forkins, who also credited civilian bystanders. “There was a good ending with this one,” she stated.