January 2, 2007 by

Conrad Buchanan

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Categories: Heroes

Conrad Buchanan once risked his life to save another and paid a heavy price.
On Nov. 15, 1998, Buchanan was working as a mall security guard at the Sherman Oaks Galleria in California. At the end of his shift, he encountered Julie Light. The 68-year-old former actress and homemaker was grief-stricken over the recent death of her husband, Robert. She was also suffering from depression and ill with terminal cancer. In constant pain, Light decided to kill herself. She drove to the mall, wrote a suicide note, left it in her car and walked to the ledge of the mall’s parking garage.
Buchanan saw Light peering over the ledge and urged her to reconsider. But Light was determined to die. She yelled at the pedestrians on the ground to move out of her way, and at 3:15 p.m., leaped off the building and fell six stories. In an effort to save her life, Buchanan tried to catch the distraught woman. The impact broke his neck and her back. Light died soon afterwards at Northridge Hospital Medical Center. Buchanan, however, was paralyzed from the shoulders down.
The media declared the 26-year-old father of two girls a hero, and the public responded by sending him encouraging notes and phone calls. Actor Christopher Reeve wrote Buchanan a letter of encouragement. California Governor Gray Davis sent him a commendation.
“I think it was the right thing to do. I think he would have been traumatized if he had just sat there and not done anything,” Buchanan’s sister Melva said at the time. “He doesn’t have any regrets. That was something that he had to do.”
Buchanan was born in Panama City, Panama. He immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 11 years old and grew up in Los Angeles. Buchanan worked in telemarketing and fast food before obtaining the security guard job. Seven months after the incident, he moved into a new wheelchair-accessible apartment in Long Beach, where he received 24-hour home care from his mother and nine medical professionals.
Buchanan died on Dec. 28 of unknown causes. An autopsy is pending. He was 34.

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