ashland.news
July 21, 2024

When small talk has big consequences: Life-saving award presented

From left, Ashland City Councilor Paula Hyatt, Councilor Jeff Dahle, Police Chief Tighe O’Meara, Councilor Dylan Bloom, Adrian Wiles, Mayor Tonya Graham, Xander Chappell, Councilor Gina DuQuenne, Councilor Bob Kaplan and Councilor Eric Hansen. City of Ashland photo
December 2, 2023

Ashland man says actions were ‘100% compassion’ 

By Morgan Rothborne, Ashland.news

A 14-year-old Ashland teenager walked onto the Clay Street overpass with the intent to end his life at 4:17 p.m., Oct. 17. 

Xander Chapell was walking home from work. On that particular Tuesday, he happened to stop to run an errand at Bi-Mart and decided to walk the nearby bike path home. He started walking in the direction of Shop’n Kart only to notice the path was blocked. These small changes to his routine led him to do something he normally wouldn’t do. 

“I hate walking on the overpass, I never do it,” he said. 

But that evening, Chappell walked up Ashland Street to the overpass and saw the teen in crisis. 

He was a tall kid, but obviously too young to drive, Chappell said. The teen was wearing athletic shorts and no shoes, standing on the overpass with police cars nearby as officers attempted to prevent the potential suicide. Chappel walked up behind the teen and put his arm where he could prevent a jump, but where it wouldn’t be detected by the person in crisis. 

“I just started talking to him, I was like, ‘What’s up, my name’s Xander, what’s going on?’” he said. 

The teen unfolded some of his reasons for wanting to end his life as Chappell listened, all while attempting to walk further out onto the overpass where he could jump. Chappell finally saw his moment, threw his arms around the teen and gave officers the window they needed to step in and get the child to safety and help. 

Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara gave a short speech as Chappell was presented with a Citizen Lifesaving Award during the Nov. 21 Ashland City Council meeting. 

“Chappell’s selfless action to engage with the juvenile and keep him occupied in thoughtful conversation rather than simply walking by embodies the city of Ashland’s motto of ‘better together,’” O’Meara said. 

There is “no doubt” that Chappell’s intervention gave police officers and mental health professionals the opportunity they needed and helped save a life that night, O’Meara said. 

Chapell said he remembered what it was like to be a teenager, or to move through a dark period in life. He felt empathy and in the moment, he said, not fear but focus. 

“People keep asking me, ‘Why did you stop?’ and I’m like, ‘Why wouldn’t you stop?’” he said. 

After the teen was safe, Chappell said he looked around himself at the lights of the police cars, fire vehicles and ambulances. The understanding of what had happened sunk in. He went home, informed his partner he needed a moment, put on a record and a movie very loud to “just process.” Intervening wasn’t a burden, he said, but it was an impact. 

Chappell is a relatively new resident to Ashland, recently celebrated the second anniversary of his move down from the Willamette Valley. An employee of Plantonix — a soil amendments business — Chapell said he has never been involved with anything like this before. He didn’t expect accolades or attention. It has been a little strange to receive so much for an act he said he performed entirely for someone else. 

“Sometimes you don’t need to get anything out of it, I just wanted to make sure the kid was OK. … It’s 100% compassion. You see a need and you fill it,” he said. 

Ashland private practice psychologist Dr. Douglas Col said anyone who may find themselves in Chapell’s shoes should follow his example. 

“What you should do is exactly what he did,” Col said. “Just engage them. You approach them like a person, not trying to be a hero, just one human being to another. … I mean, when was the last time somebody jumped off a bridge in the middle of a conversation? Just isn’t going to happen.” 

Email Ashland.news reporter Morgan Rothborne at morganr@ashland.news.

This article mentions suicide. Individuals in crisis or looking to help someone else who is can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988, or visit 988lifeline.org for more resources.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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