Bryce Demopoulos ’23 was on his way to his vacation job at Weill Cornell Medicine on Aug. 4 when he saw a man “half fall, half stumble” fall into the subway tracks and jump in to save him seconds before an incoming train pulled into the station.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” says Demopoulos, a biological and environmental engineering major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “I saw someone who was clearly in trouble and I was in a position to help him. It didn’t really occur to me that it was dangerous at the time – I just feel like I had a responsibility to jump in and help him when he needed it.
It wasn’t until later, when he watched the video of the rescue published by the New York University student newspaper, Washington Square News, that Demopoulos saw the headlights of the approaching train and realized how narrow their escape had been.
“I wouldn’t call it a near-death experience,” he said, “but it was pretty sobering. Hearing about the event doesn’t really do it justice. Crazy things happen.”
Demopoulos works as a summer research intern in Dr. Shahin Rafii ’82, Chief of the Division of Regenerative Medicine, Director of the Ansary Stem Cell Institute and the Arthur B. Belfer Professor of Genetic Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. On the morning of Aug. 4, he was with a friend, NYU student Andre Dubovskiy, at the Third Avenue-138th Street station, waiting for the No. 6 train downtown. Seconds after Dubovskiy ran away to see when the next train would arrive, he heard the man yell as he fell on the rails, Demopoulos said.
“I thought he might jump out on his own, but he didn’t get up,” he said. “I got in almost immediately. It all happened very quickly – I realize how cliche that sounds, but it’s true.”
The video, filmed by an employee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), shows Demopoulos jumping to the tracks, lifting the man, putting an arm around his back and helping him to his feet. He then extends a hand to the man to get up so that he can lift himself back onto the platform. Demopoulos quickly followed, with the lights of the oncoming train visible behind him.
Once on the platform, onlookers, including the MTA employee who filmed the video and other employees, approached. The man thanked Demopoulos for saving him.
“I am still shocked by the decency, concern and genuine kindness that can lead someone to risk such a danger to help someone else,” the employee who made the video told Washington Square News. “The danger isn’t just the approaching train — it’s the big jump down, the third rail, the stranger putting his arm around you.”
Demopoulos, who is currently applying to medical school, comes from a family of Cornellians, which includes his mother, Dr. Jacqueline Ehrlich ’89, MD ’93; his father, dr. Byron Demopoulos, MD ’91, an associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine; and his sister, Sage Demopoulos ’22, a student at the College of Veterinary Medicine.
“Looking back, I’ve never been in a situation like this — it’s the kind of stuff you read about in the papers,” Demopoulos said. “I’m glad my first reaction was to act and do something.”