On Thursday, Feb. 2, 44-year-old Eric Mumaw dove into the icy waters of the Cumberland River, intent on saving the suicidal woman whose car had slid beyond its frozen banks.
He and another officer, Nick Diamond, had responded to a call around 4 p.m. from a family member of Juli Glisson, warning them that the 40-year-old woman was sitting on the bank of the river in her vehicle contemplating suicide. Within moments of receiving the alert, Mumaw and Diamond were at the scene.
For several long, likely agonizing minutes, Mumaw and his partner pleaded with Glisson to exit the vehicle. She refused, and instead shifted the car into gear and propelling it toward the riverbank. The officers remained with the car, trying desperately to pull Glisson out.
Unable to abandon the woman to die, the vehicle pulled Mumaw and Diamond into the icy water, causing them to lose their balance and immediately causing shock to their bodies. Glisson was able to escape the car and swim to safety.
Thankfully, Diamond was able to reach the shore. Mumaw was not.
Nearly 16 hours later, just after 8 a.m., a diver with the local fire department found Mumaw’s body floating in the river, fewer than 100 yards from a boat dock.
Perhaps Major Megan Barry said it best when she remembered Mumaw in an official statement:
Our worst fears were realized today when Officer Mumaw was recovered deceased from the Cumberland River after having given his life to save a woman in distress. Officer Mumaw dedicated his life to the safety and protection of us all, and today he gave his life to that calling.
At his funeral, Mumaw was mourned by hundreds of his fellow police officers and community members. Eleven-year-old Xavier Maffei fondly recalled shopping with Mumaw last Christmas during the department’s “Shop With a Cop” outreach program for disadvantaged kids.
Nearly a month later, on Feb. 26, Hollywood stars donned their best gowns and jackets, topped off with glittering jewels and perfect manicures, all set for the 2017 Academy Awards.
Hours before the Academy launched the Gaffe Heard 'Round the World, actress Viola Davis took to the stage to accept the award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Fences, where she made this claim:
I became an artist, and thank God I did! Because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.
Davis is admittedly a very, very good actress. Her performance in The Help was unparalleled. If it hadn’t been for all the gratuitous sex, I’m sure I would have stuck around to enjoy her talents in How To Get Away With Murder. And her role in Fences deserved an Oscar.
However, Davis's remarkably pompous statement is dead wrong; her profession may imitate life, yes, but it is certainly far from the only one that “celebrates what it means to live a life.”
And you need not search any farther than the remarkable life and selfless sacrifice of Eric Mumaw to see that; a man whose celebration of life – even that of a stranger’s – was a cause worth dying for.