Chance Lifesaving Encounter Before Commencement Changes Graduate's Perspective

Monday, May 15, 2017

For four years at Rockhurst University, Aimee Dion has heard about the Jesuit call to be “men and women for and with others.” She learned about the importance of treating each other as companions. And she learned about how simple acts of service bring us closer to one another.

But few face the kind of test of those principles that Dion did on her way to Saturday’s commencement ceremony at Municipal Auditorium. Driving down the highway with her mom, Dion said they spotted a woman with her head hanging over the side of the highway bridge.
Something about the scene — a sense that this woman needed help — stirred them to stop, she said.

“We prayed right before we got of the car and walked over to her,” Dion said.

Something was clearly wrong. Dion said she noticed a knife in one of the woman’s hands. Fearing that the woman intended to hurt herself, they managed to get her in the car, and started talking. A story of violence, abuse and tragedy emerged.

“She started talking about what was happening in her life and it sounded just horrible,” Dion said. “Maybe we couldn’t do anything to help her situation. But we can stop and talk to her and get to know her story a little bit and get her off the bridge. That’s the part that I can do.”

Both Dion and her mother realized that the woman needed help, and she needed a place to go. Taking her to her grandmother’s home, they entered the woman’s information into an online form for mental health crisis hotline.

By the time she had made it to Municipal Auditorium for commencement, Dion said she was a little overwhelmed by the emotions of the situation. But she said there was no question or hesitancy about stepping in, and her experience at Rockhurst is part of the reason why.

“I was a resident assistant here, and I think I’m just always an RA,” she said. “We always have to be able to step into situations quickly and help. It’s not something you think about.”

Dion said the experience changed her whole perspective on the commencement weekend. In every speech and prayer offered to the graduates, she said she found a new, deeper meaning.

“Everything that Fr. Curran was saying about being for and with others and walking with people, that felt very different after that,” she said.

Thinking through the details of the experience, Dion said the importance of everything from the timing of their car ride (they were running late) to their position on the road (in the right most lane, where the woman was clearly visible) all of a sudden seemed so much more significant. Lacking another explanation, Dion didn't rule out divine intervention.

“I think that’s the way God works sometimes,” she said.