Julie Macholz was out enjoying a Thursday afternoon walk with her dog when she heard something going on. Without even thinking about it, she jumped into the Chicago River and saved a man’s life.
As a retired Navy jet pilot, Macholz said that she just made the decision to go ahead and do it. She said, “He was starting to go under.”
According to Chicago Police, the man who jumped into the river was a 36-year-old who was attempting suicide. After being rescued, police say he was transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He was listed in serious condition.
Macholz saw that there were a number of people standing by the river when she was walking her dog. The victim was already in the water at that time. At first, she yelled for two men to throw life rings and another man had jumped into the river, attempting to assist.
Fortunately, the first man who jumped in is safe and he managed to hold onto the ring. Macholz said that the man began flowing down the river with the current, pushing him from the victim who was still struggling. That is when she jumped in.
Macholz feels that things happen for a reason. She said to ABC7: “God puts you in a place, and things happen. I just really hope he makes it. It’s hard to believe that I was the person to go, but I’m just glad I was there.”
The cameras were rolling by the ABC7 Chicago crew when the man was pulled from the water. Macholz was holding him by one arm and in the other arm, she held the life ring as she swam to the edge of the river. First responders were just beginning to get into the water when she got to the edge.
When Macholz turned to one of the first responders, she said, “I’m just keeping his head above water until you tell me what else you want me to do.” The first responder was impressed with what she was doing and said she should get a job working with them!
As it turns out, Macholz had been a lifeguard through high school and in college. She also was a water safety instructor when she was in college. She says that it had been “a few decades,” but she still had what it took.
In addition to those qualifications, she is one of the first women that qualified as an aggressor pilot in the A-4 Skyhawk in the Navy jet community.
“There’s a lot of water training in the Navy and there’s a lot of thinking on your feet and being trained to handle an emergency, so that helped,” she said.
According to police, the man was in serious condition and hospitalized. As for Macholz, she continued walking her dog the block left before she got home. Looking out the window, she could still see the first responders so she showed her daughter what had happened.
As she was explaining to her daughter why she was wet, her husband walked in. He is also a retired jet pilot and flies a commercial airliner currently. They have been living in Chicago for a year.
Her husband said, “I heard the story, and it didn’t surprise me in a way. She’s a take-charge kind of lady. I’m extremely proud.”
As the day ended, they had a margarita together. They toasted Julie and were thankful that she was there to help the man in distress. They felt that it was a time to reflect, after a man in need was rescued from the river.
“The big picture of things,” said Julie Macholz, “I’m just glad I was there.”
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