Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Praise The Lord and Thank The Frenchman!
Julien Duret, 29, is the mystery man who jumped into the frigid East River Saturday and was the first to lift Bridget Sheridan from the water.
"The emotion took over," Duret told the Daily News Tuesday after he was tracked down in his hometown of Lyon, France. "I didn't think at all. It happened very fast. I reacted very fast....I've never done anything like that before."
Duret's act of heroism captivated the city and set off a frenzy to identify the Lone Ranger-like hero.
In his first interview, Duret recounted the dramatic rescue - just hours after Bridget's father, David Anderson, hailed the humble Frenchman for being "the first one in the water" to help save his daughter.
An engineer on vacation in the city, Duret was walking along a pier at the South Street Seaport with his girlfriend when he spotted something falling from the Peking ship.
At first, Duret had no clue it was a little girl.
"I went to see what it was," Duret said. "There was no one around. There was no one on the boat."
"I approached the water and looked down. I thought it was a doll," he said. "Then I realized it wasn't a doll, it was a baby."
In an instant, Duret stripped off his coat and leaped off the pier into the murky water.
His girlfriend screamed for help.
When Duret reached Bridget, the 2-year-old girl appeared lifeless, he said. Duret feared the worst.
"The child wasn't moving and wasn't crying," he said. "I thought she was dead."
Duret said he scooped up the cold and unresponsive child. Moments later, her father was in the water beside him.
Anderson had sprinted from the top of the gangplank, shedding his phone and wallet along the way, and jumped into the river.
"I gave the father the child," Duret said.
In a now iconic image, splashed across the front page of the Sunday News, Anderson then lifted Bridget out of the water and she opened her eyes.
When Duret finally got back on the pier, he was mobbed by onlookers, who handed the freezing Frenchman their dry clothes.
Anderson spirited his daughter into an ambulance, Duret said, and he caught a cab shortly after.
He never got a chance to speak with Bridget or her dad.
The incredible rescue came on the last day of what was Duret's first trip to the city.
It wasn't until he was leaving the city with his girlfriend the next morning that he realized his tale of heroism had captivated New York.
Still, Duret shrugged off his valiant deed.
"I don't really think I'm a hero," Duret said. "Anyone would do the same thing....I was just happy that I was able to help her, and I am just happy that the family has been reunited."
Thanks to Yahoo.com and NYDailyNews.com