Melanie Rossomando had just turned 17. And she was scared.
On a shore trip with her friends and family, she had taken a skyride for an aerial view of the beach. Without warning, the ride stopped. Stormclouds had gathered and she could see lightning all around her and a tornado forming in the distance. Meanwhile, she and her friend Herlide Joseph were stuck on a metal bench suspended 30 feet over the ground on a malfunctioning chairlift that had stopped moving.
“I was terrified of being struck by lightning,” Rossomando said.
She thought her only way for her and Joseph to escape being struck by lightning was to jump. Joseph said she would jump if Rossomando jumped first. So, with a minimum of fuss, she leapt to the ground.
“I didn’t think about it twice,” Rossomando said. “I knew if I did I would double guess myself.”
A star member of the soccer team, Rossomando was able to put her athletic training to good use. She dropped to her side when she landed on the sand, minimizing the impact.
Nick Delpezzo, an emergency medical technician from New York rushed to her after she hit the ground and stayed with her. Rossomando credited Delpezzo with calming her down and talking her through the ordeal.
“I was scared, cold and shocked,” Rossomando said.
Despite her pledge to follow Rossomando down, Joseph stayed up on the chairlift. The whole thing would have ended it right there if it had not been for an excitable smartphone owner on the boardwalk nearby who recorded a short, shaky video of Rossomando’s leap. Once the video was uploaded to youtube, it instantly became a viral sensation. The Rossomandos have spent this week fielding media offers from the likes of MSNBC, Fox News and more.
“I didn’t expect this kind of publicity,” Rossomando said, marveling at the attention the youtube video has garnered. “All I did was jump.”
While the large majority of internet commenters have been nice and supportive, she was troubled by hurtful commenters who called her an "idiot" or a "bimbo."
She said she was unsettled and walked with a slight limp for the rest of the weekend. But she had recovered enough to pass her drivers’ test on Tuesday.