Shellbi Anderson, 26, of Ada, said she knew the “split second” her feet left the overpass that she had “made the worst decision of (her) life.” That decision has since had far-reaching consequences.
Anderson said life had “gotten the best” of her when she made the decision to take her own life June 9. From a hospital bed at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center in Oklahoma City, Anderson now says she wishes she could “turn back the clock.”
Around 4:30 p.m. June 9, authorities began receiving calls about a body lying face-down in a northbound lane of U.S. Highway 377/state Highway 99 at the West Sandy Creek Drive bridge — the body was Anderson. Moments before, in a state of desperation, Anderson stepped over the guardrail and jumped more than 20-feet to the hard pavement below.
“I remember falling and looking down as I fell, thinking … this is gonna hurt,” Anderson said Tuesday morning from her hospital bed. “I remember hitting the ground and having my breath knocked out of me and not being able to feel my legs.”
Anderson said she remembers a “blonde lady” coming up to her while talking on her cell phone, telling her “it’s going to be okay” and to “lay still.”
“I remember hearing tires screech and sirens and hearing a helicopter,” Anderson said.
By then, paramedics from Mercy EMS had arrived along with units from the Ada police and fire departments, Pontotoc County Sheriff’s Office and Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Sheriff’s deputies and state troopers shut down access to the northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 377 for 36 minutes, creating a temporary landing zone north of the bridge.
Anderson was temporarily loaded into an ambulance stationed under the bridge while emergency personnel awaited the arrival of an AirEvac Lifeteam helicopter. Once the helicopter landed, the ambulance backed out from under the bridge to meet AirEvac personnel, who immediately loaded Anderson into the helicopter and took off for Oklahoma City.
“I remember being lifted into the chopper and about three minutes out I asked how much longer the ride was and a woman told me about 20 minutes,” Anderson said, adding that she focused on the woman’s eyes because she was terrified of heights and could not move her head.
Upon arrival at OU Medical Center, Anderson said, she was taken for a CT scan and then directly into surgery to repair a damaged vertebra.
In the time since her arrival, Anderson said she has undergone three surgeries and has at least three more to go. The impact shattered bones in both feet, toes and ankles, broke her pelvis and severely damaged her L3 vertebra.
“It could’ve been way worse, that’s for sure,” she said. “Life just got the best of me. This town we live in is consumed with drugs and I’ve battled addiction since December, but (I’ve) been clean since May 5.”
Anderson’s fiancé and parents arrived at the bridge shortly after police and EMS personnel, something she said was “extremely hard to see.”
“Suicide was the motive, but the moment I stepped off I instantly regretted it and tried to grab the railing,” Anderson said. She said she felt her fingertips touch the railing, but it was too late.
“If I could turn back the clock, I would never have stepped off that bridge,” she said.
Anderson said she sat on the rail for a moment before jumping, waiting for oncoming traffic to pass.
“I wasn’t trying to take anyone else’s life, just mine in that moment,” she said.
She said she hopes her story helps prevent others from making the same mistake she made.
“I’m so grateful the Lord had his hands on me Friday evening,” she said. “Now I have a second chance at life. I’m going to take full advantage of it and live it to the fullest.”
Anderson said she wants to thank the first responders, law enforcement and EMS personnel who came to her aid that day, and one very specific individual whose identity remains a mystery to her — the “blonde lady” who first encountered her on the pavement, and told her everything would be okay.
“I never caught her name but I’m sure she was the lady in the red car that I waited on to pass by so I wouldn’t cause an accident,” Anderson said.