LIVINGSTON, NJ — When Livingston sisters Victoria and Lauren Belcuore saw a young woman sitting at the edge of a bridge in Seaside at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, they did not hesitate to pull over—risking their own safety until they successfully convinced her not to jump.
In an essay written about the incident, Lauren, a senior at Livingston High School, explained that they were driving home from the Jersey Shore on Easter morning when they “saw a girl sitting at the ledge, staring blankly out onto the choppy water.” Not knowing whether they were witnessing an Instagram stunt or a suicide attempt, Victoria, now a junior at Villanova University, “pulled over to the side of the bridge and rushed out of the car.”
“By the time I started running to her, all I can think to say was, ‘Please don't. Please stop. Please come back,’” said Lauren, adding that the girl appeared to be around her age. “I repeated these phrases eagerly. The only response I received was her lowering herself into a hanging position. By then it had been clear that the girl no longer wanted to let go, but was now simply unable to return to the surface.”
Together with another driver who pulled over to help, the Belcuore sisters lifted the girl to safety and immediately embraced her despite the health risks that were so threatening at the time. Looking into the girl's eyes, Lauren said she couldn't help but "thank God for the miracle that had just occurred.”
“Reflecting on the depth of what had taken place, it became apparent to me: those who helped the girl did not know anything about her—not her religion or political party or even her name,” she said. “Despite this, no one hesitated to help her in her time of need.”
At the request of the Livingston Police Department, the Livingston Township Council honored the sisters with an official citation on Monday in recognition of their “responsiveness and heroism in an emergency situation.”
During the virtual ceremony, Livingston Police Chief Gary Marshuetz reiterated that “when probably a few cars passed by, they stopped on this bridge in a dangerous location and put themselves in harm’s way.”
“They took action, they intervened, they prevented a tragedy, and I just want them to know that the Livingston Police Department is proud of them,” said Marshuetz. "It’s too often that we respond to calls with different outcomes, so we listened to this story with much enthusiasm.”
In addition to reading Lauren’s essay, Mayor Rudy Fernandez also asked Victoria—more commonly known as Tori—to share what went through her own mind that day.
“It’s a really high bridge, so we were concerned that she was sitting there,” said Tori. "We weren't really completely sure what intentions were yet, so we passed her a little bit; but then I had like a weird feeling about it in my gut.”
The oldest of six siblings, Tori noted that her youngest sister was also in the car and was instructed to stay put as she and Lauren sprinted toward the woman on the bridge.
“Something we took away from it was—this was the time when the pandemic was really scary and bad and the numbers are really high, so it was just really nice to see people coming together and helping regardless of their own health,” she said.
Lauren agreed with her older sister, stating that everything happened so fast that their immediate instinct was to act rather than weigh the risk to their own safety.
“This was when it was scary to even go to like the grocery store, so it was really amazing how that didn't really play a factor at all when it really like mattered,” said Lauren. “When someone was actually in danger, people risked their own safety.”
On behalf of the township council, Fernandez applauded the sisters for their “courageous intervention” and for being “instrumental in preventing a woman in crisis from jumping.”
“It was an amazing act of courage by both of you, saving someone's life who is ready to take their own not knowing what may have been going through this person's head,” he said. “The entire town is really proud of what you did…It really shows what two people can do when they put their minds to doing something really amazing, so thank you very much.”
Marshuetz added to the mayor’s comments by commending Tori and Lauren’s parents, recognizing that they are “obviously doing a great job raising these two.”
The chief also acknowledged that 2020 has been “a strange year” and implored the public “not to ignore any calls for help from anyone,” stating that the township “does not want to lose anyone to suicide.”
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