The following is a true story that happened to me a couple months ago. I wrote it as best I could from memory, I'm sure some details are misconstrued or left out based on the nature of the event. Fair warning, this is an intense story. It was unusual for me to do anything without Brittany while visiting her in Nashville, but she had to babysit that night and I wanted to see my friends. I was late to leave Brittany’s house to meet up with the crew so I called Jenny to let her know not to start the movie without me. Jenny told me that they had decided not to meet until 8:30 instead of 8 so I was actually early.
I pulled my Jeep into the parking lot of the old Goodwill—one of the last relics of my childhood in Franklin. I stepped out into what only Tennesseans consider winter. I walked inside in hopes of finding some vinyls for the record player I had just purchased. The store was about to close, so I didn’t spend much time in the front looking at ties, although I wanted to. I realized that this store probably didn’t have any vinyl records because I didn’t see them in the CD section in the front and so I walked to the back of the store to… well I don’t really know why. That’s the thing about God—He sometimes leads me to do things I don’t understand. And that’s when I saw him.
I stepped through the main aisle of the store headed to the furniture section when I happened to glance left where I saw what looked like a torso and pair of legs lying on the floor in the changing room.My immediate reaction was to keep walking. It was late and I kind of laughed about the fact that someone was laying down in the changing room presumably napping—or perhaps just avoiding closing duties. But last year I took a Wilderness First Responder course and “the Padge” told me it would happen like this. He said we don’t see accidents in the outdoors. His EMT stories during the training made it very clear that heart attacks most oftentimes happen in grocery stores, not in the backcountry.
I very clearly heard The Padge’s voice. I remembered him saying, “be good to people.” It’s strange to say, but in that moment either God or my training or some combination of both told me I needed to check twice—so I did. I walked closer to the changing room door which was half open. I got about 3 feet from it where I could fully see legs and the blue Goodwill employee vest. The legs were moving just slightly and I didn’t hear any sound coming from inside so I smiled at my own willingness to freak out and walked away.
Five feet past the changing room I heard that voice once more. I don’t mean to over spiritualize the situation, but I would not have walked back had I not felt something pull me towards that room. I’ve realized that defining moments aren’t always as sexy as stories make them out to be. This wasn’t deciding to jump off a cliff into the ocean to save a drowning swimmer or parachuting into the Mojave desert to free a group of enslaved Lions. This was just opening a door. So I embraced the pull and opened the changing room and looked inside to see a brown haired high school guy lying on his back with a bloody box cutter by his side and a cut along his wrist.
I give full credit to Justin Padgett and Erik Wakehill for their instruction at my WFR course for what happened next. The thoughts that were flying through my brain were going at such a breakneck speed that I couldn’t even stop them to ask what they were saying. It’s a weird feeling because all of the possible situations run through your head too fast to analyze anything at all, but just like a well rehearsed performer, my training kicked in.
“Hey man are you ok? “ I said.
The guy groaned.
“My name is Jordan White and I’m going to go get you some help ok?”
I walked over to the cash register to get the manager on duty. I would explain my thought process, but like I said it was happening way too fast for me to catch anything. My body was in control, but my head was freaking out. I stopped fifteen feet in front of the register to simultaneously get the manager to come help me and pull out my cell phone to call 911.
“Sir, I need you to come here please,” I said to the manager who was checking people out at the register.
He, and the three women in line to buy their final purchases all looked at me like I was an idiot, but I didn’t care. I told him again.
“Sir, I need you to come here. I have an emergency and I need you to help me.” I said.
He very hesitantly left his register and came to meet me. As we walked toward the changing room I explained the situation to him.
“Ok here’s what’s going on, one of your employees cut his wrist in the changing room and I just found him in there lying on the floor. I’m going to call 911, but I need you to talk to him while I’m on the phone ok?” I said.
I’ll be the first to admit that this probably isn’t textbook WFR procedure. I probably should have been the one talking to the guy and the manager should have been the one on the phone but I assumed that the manager would have a relationship with the guy and that he would be able to keep him talking. At the time of my first meeting the guy on the floor, he was too groggy to really say anything so I didn’t think I was asking too much of the manager in just keeping the guy conscious. I probably could have handled it better, but the Padge told me the most important thing is to just do something—so I did.
The manager looked scared as I told him about what was going on. When we got to the changing room I was trying to both talk to 911 and also make sure the situation was stable with the guy on the floor. I don’t remember exactly what I said here, but I remember looking into the room and seeing that the guy on the floor was much more coherent. The manager only stood by the door for less than a minute before he left. I would later find out that the manager went back to checking people out. I suppose that was his way of dealing with the situation—by leaving. I don’t mean to call him out, but that’s just what happened.
“What are you doing? Don’t get help.” The guy on the floor said to me as I stood in the doorway of the changing room.
After a second look at him I felt slightly better about the situation because I realized that he hadn’t cut him self very deep and that he went the wrong direction with the blade. I hated that I knew both of these things from random things I had learned in my life, but they came in handy now. He hadn’t lost much blood but I needed to get him help.
He tried to close me out of the changing room, but for some reason I had the audacity to put my foot in the door to keep the room open. When I first found him I hadn’t removed the box cutter because it was lying on the far side of his body and I didn’t want to have to reach across him to remove it because I was afraid he may cut me. So he had a box cutter and was not happy with me, yet I remained on the phone with 911 and kept my foot in that door.
I felt like if he shut the door then I may have lost him—and I wasn’t willing to let that happen just yet. But it was getting increasingly difficult to explain the situation to 911 while also fighting him closing me out of the room all alone. Once again my body made a decision my mind wasn’t able to do. Deciding that getting 911 to Goodwill was more important than maintain a presence in the room, I walked a few feet away to give them directions to our location.
“Which Goodwill are you at?” Said the 911 operator. Unfortunately I needed my mind to figure out where I was and that was exceedingly difficult. Plus I’m just garbage at directions.
“Are you at the one off of Murfreesboro Road or Hillsboro Road?” They asked.
It certainly didn’t help that I hadn’t been living in Franklin for four years.
“Umm… I think Hillsboro. I’m at the one next to Kroger” I said.
“Sir, they are both next to Krogers. Which one?” They asked.
“Oh, I think Hillsboro” I said.
At this point something ridiculous happened. The guy came out of the changing room, now pretty obviously revived and started to walk out of the store. He saw me talking on the phone.
“I’m Fine. Hang up the phone” the guy said.
“Um, he’s up and now he’s walking out of the store” I told the 911 operator.
“I’m Fine! Hang Up” The guy was now 30 feet or more away from me walking towards the exit.
I needed help so badly. I started to walk towards the door trailing him by a solid fifteen fit when I ran into another employee. He was a young man, probably only 16. I told him that we couldn’t let the guy leave. I was trying to explain the situation to both the 911 operator and the other employee when I noticed that the employee was wearing hearing aids and didn’t understand anything I had just said. I tried my best to sign what I was trying to explain, but that only lasted a couple seconds before I realized my own futility.
The guy walked out of the door.
I looked at the manager who I now believed just did not care about the situation.
“We can’t let him go” I said.
“Just let him leave” he told me.
So I did what any ignorant, dedicated WFR should do in that situation—I followed him. When I next saw him he was looking in through the window of the Dollar General next door. He looked back at me.
“Hang up the phone” he said.
“Hey man, you want to talk?” I said.
“Hang up the phone, I don’t need help” he insisted.
“Hey let’s talk, I’m not even getting anyone. I’m talking to my mom” I lied.
He kept walking down the strip and sat down by a pillar in front of the Kroger. He pulled out a cigarette and lit it. A cop car then sped up to the front of the Goodwill where I was standing and I approached the car. I explained the situation to the lady officer and she drove down to the guy and started talking to him. At least 3 more cop cars, and an ambulance would all show up after that.
I stood in front of the Goodwill for a moment before deciding to go back inside. I don’t know why I went back inside, but I did. I explained the situation to the manager (for some reason), and then looked at jeans for no reason at all. I went back outside where I talked to that same lady cop and the manager who told me that the guy’s girlfriend had just cheated on him and the manager knew something like this was going to happen. He told us both about how he wanted to fire the guy earlier in the day but the general manager wouldn’t let him.
“It was all for attention” they both kept saying.
I didn’t think it mattered. The guy would get a ride to the hospital and hopefully some therapy. The lady cop would leave laughing with her co-workers about some thing that I’ll never know. The manager would go back inside to close the store and I would stand on the corner feeling lost.
I thanked one of the officers for his service, but not because I meant it. I wanted him to acknowledge that I had been the one to make the rescue. It sounds terrible and maybe it is, but I wanted recognition. Not because I wanted an award, but I felt I needed verification. I so desperately wanted someone there to thank me.
I wanted confirmation that I’d done the right thing. But I didn’t get it.
I later went to Madi’s house to watch a movie with my friends and I would tell them the story, but only once. This is the third, and potentially last time I’ll tell it.