Bryce Demopoulos ’23 was heading to his summer job at Weill Cornell Medicine on Aug. 4 when he saw a man “half fall, half stumble” into the subway tracks and jumped in to rescue him seconds before an incoming train pulled into the station.
“I didn’t really think about it too much,” said Demopoulos, a biological and environmental engineering major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “I saw somebody who was obviously in trouble and I was in a position to help him. It didn’t really occur to me that it was dangerous in the moment – I just feel like I had the responsibility to just hop in and help him when he needed it.”
It was only later, watching video of the rescue published by New York University’s 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 fairly sobering. Hearing about the event doesn’t really do it justice. Crazy things do happen.”
Demopoulos is working as a summer research intern in the stem-cell research lab of Dr. Shahin Rafii ’82, chief of the Division of Regenerative Medicine, director of the Ansary Stem Cell Institute and the Arthur B. Belfer Professor in 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 downtown No. 6 train. Seconds after Dubovskiy walked away to check when the next train would arrive, Demopoulos said, he heard the man call out as he fell to the tracks.
“I kind of thought he would be able to hop out himself, but he didn’t get up,” he said. “I pretty much just jumped in immediately. It all happened really fast – I realize how cliche that sounds, but it’s true.”
The video, filmed by a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) employee, shows Demopoulos jumping down to the tracks, lifting the man, putting an arm around his back and helping him to his feet. He then holds out a hand for the man to step on so he can lift himself back on to the platform. Demopoulos quickly followed, with the lights of the incoming train visible behind him.
Once on the platform, onlookers approached, including the MTA worker who filmed the video and other employees. The man thanked Demopoulos for rescuing him.
“I am shocked still by the decency, concern and genuine kindness that might lead one to risk such danger to help someone else,” the employee who took the video told Washington Square News. “The danger is not just the oncoming train – it is the large 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, including his mother, Dr. Jacqueline Ehrlich ’89, M.D. ’93; his father, Dr. Byron Demopoulos, M.D. ’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 that before – it’s the kind of thing you read about in the papers,” Demopoulos said. “I’m glad that my first reaction was to act and do something.”