Updated: Jan 4, 2021
During the news-packed last month of 2020 this is a story that flew under the radar until it was recently brought to the attention of Classic City News
By Joe Johnson
Shortly after midnight on Dec. 12 a pair of security guards saved a suicidal 20-year-old University of Georgia student who jumped off a parking deck's ledge.
As a crowd watched in horror and stunned disbelief, the father and daughter security duo struggled to hold the man by his arms as he fought them off, thrashing and dangling above the concrete below.
“The whole time he was screaming at the top of his lungs, “Just let me go! Just let me go,” said Elizabeth Hilton, who at the time worked for BOS Security at The Mark Athens, an upscale apartment building for students located at Oconee and Hickory streets.
Her dad, James Hilton, a retired paramedic who also works for BOS, wasn’t very optimistic about the man’s odds.
“Tragically, this young man had made his decision. By the time we reached him he had already leapt off a seven-story building. We were just lucky to catch his arms at the last moment,” he said. “The whole time I was thinking to myself, “this guy is gonna die and he’s going to take Elizabeth (who weighs just 148 pounds) with him.”
James Hilton said after seeing the student climb over a waist-high cable barrier to stand on the building's ledge his daughter managed to grab one of the student's arms and he soon followed and grabbed the other arm just prior to him jumping.
He said that no part of the student's body was touching the building at that point.
"He was dangling in mid-air," he said. "My main concern was that he was going to fall and take my daughter with him."
But Elizabeth never never quit and never lost hope.
She said something to the man that made sense to him, her father said, at which time he stopped resisting, and began to help pull himself back up to safety.
“It was a very intense, desperate situation,” James Hilton said. “Razor close.”
The incident occurred on Elizabeth's next-to-last day as a security guad.
She has since been hired by the Marietta Police Derpartment and is currently in training at the police academy.
Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Jesse Houle said he is attempting to get the Board of Commissioners to issue the Hiltons a letter of commendation.
"Beyond a heartwarming human interest story of ordinary people's heroics, I believe this also touches upon the very important challenges of depression and suicide that plague our society," Houle said. "Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. As we continue to endure the isolation and financial strain of COVID, I believe we're likely to hear all too many stories similar to this but with a much different ending. I feel this is a great opportunity to address the subject with an opportunity to provide some positivity at the same time and I hope that's a chance our community doesn't miss out on."