Ramiro Ocasio stood on the platform of the 59th Street and Lexington Avenue subway station, listening to music and avoiding the shuffle of commuters on his way home to Astoria. As he waited for the train, the 33-year-old records clerk at Kirkland & Ellis considered plans for the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. weekend and thought about Sunday’s football game.
Suddenly, the crowd rushed towards the tracks, staring over the edge at an elderly man who had tumbled from the platform, another potential victim in the string of subway fatalities recently afflicting the city.
Ocasio didn’t think when he left work two hours early – a benefit granted by his employer every Friday before a holiday weekend – as he said goodbye to a few co-workers and checked in with his supervisor one last time before the extended break, that he would be saving someone’s life.
The crowd screamed as the man crawled along the tracks, disoriented and injured. Straphangers wailed, frozen with fear. Then, the metal rails rumbled, reflecting the train’s headlights.
“Nobody was doing anything,” Ocasio said. “I had to jump in.”
Powered by adrenaline, Ocasio hopped into the ditch, grabbed the man by his collar and waist and hoisted him back onto the platform. The train inched closer. The rumble grew louder.
“Now you’re in trouble,” he thought.
Ocasio jumped to pull himself up. The ledge was too high. He jumped again. Five sets of hands clutched his and heaved him to safety.
Bystanders gathered Ocasio’s jacket, backpack and wallet, which he abandoned before jumping onto the tracks. One woman stood by him, saying that police and paramedics would be there soon. Ocasio’s knee was injured in the rescue, and needed to be examined. He sat on the floor of the station, shocked.
“I was so lucky,” he said.
Ocasio did not get the elderly man’s name but believed he suffered from vision impairment which led to his fall. All the man said after the incident was that he didn’t have any family.
Ocasio believes the MTA should advise riders against standing too close to the edge of subway platforms, increasing signage and station vigilance. Not every stop is equipped with someone willing to save a life.
Now, even flooded by calls from friends across the country and co-workers, eagerly anticipating the story of his bravery, Ocasio said he doesn’t view himself as a hero.
“I’ve never done anything like this,” he said. “I just did it in the moment because I just saw a person who needed help and he would have lost his life. Now that I’m here talking about it, I realize I could have lost my life.”