JEFFERSON PARK — When Kevin Falco saw a news story in April about a man who jumped on CTA Blue Line tracks to save a woman from an oncoming train, Falco immediately called his friend Julio Palma.
"I called him, said, 'Hey, turn on the news, man,' " Falco said. "I was like, 'Look, there are other people like [you], too.' "
Palma also risked his life to save a stranger from Blue Line tracks — in 2007.
"I can relate to what he’s going through," Palma said. "People say it’s a heroic thing, but you’re not thinking at that moment, 'Oh, I'm a heroic person.' "
The story stirred up memories for the Belmont Cragin resident.
"He started bringing back everything that happened that day," Falco said. "And everything that happened after."
Palma's story didn't end with the day he lifted the pregnant woman off the rails: Four years later, she found him, and the two spoke for a second time.
Kyla Gardner tells DNAinfo Radio about Kevin Falco's rescue of a woman on the Blue Line tracks:
Palma, 47, was waiting for a train at the Jefferson Park station in March 2007. He was headed to his job at O'Hare Airport, where he worked for Swissport Cargo.
“When I was waiting for the train, I looked to my right and saw a lady,” he said. “I looked to my left, and when I looked back, it was like, poof, she disappeared.”
For a moment Palma wondered if he had been daydreaming, but as soon as he noticed the woman on the tracks — who had become dizzy and fallen, the Sun-Times reported at the time — he leapt into action.
“I didn’t even think of it, I threw my bookbag, I just jumped in there,” he said. Palma picked the woman up from the rails as a train approached, and two men on the platform helped pull the woman to safety, and then Palma.
The train stopped short of the station, he said.
Palma stuck around as authorities arrived, and the woman, clearly shaken, pulled him close to her.
“I thought she was going to say, ‘Thank you,’” he said. “The first thing that came out of her mouth was, ‘I’m pregnant.’ ”
She was taken to the hospital, and Palma went on to work, where he told co-worker Falco about his harrowing rescue.
"He was pretty shaken up at first. He was really emotional about it," Falco said. "He was just thankful that he was there to save her life instead of anything else happening to her."
But Palma didn't know what happened to the woman after she left the station — and he hadn't thought to get her name.
'A special moment'
The next day, he stopped by several hospitals and a police station to see if he could find out if anyone knew how the woman was doing — and if her child was OK.
“The way she fell, I was kind of worried,” Palma said. “Nobody could give me any information, for privacy, which I understand.”
Years passed, and Palma would occasionally wonder about the woman.
In 2011, he got a message from a stranger on Facebook asking for his phone number.
“She said, ‘I’ve never done this before, but I was wondering if your name is Julio Palma.’ I’m thinking this is some kind of crazy person or one of my guys doing some kind of hoax, or somebody trying to pick me up,” Palma said. “She said, ‘Do you recall what happened, March 6th or 7th or something like that, at Jefferson Park?’”
Palma, still wary, gave the woman his number, and when he picked up her phone call, she thanked him, he said.
“I was so excited, and crying, and, 'Oh my God, the lady I saved from the train station, after all these years, she got a hold of me,’ ” Palma said. “She was crying, it was a special moment.”
He also learned that the woman's unborn baby had grown into a healthy 4-year-old girl.
"All I need is for that girl to be good and healthy," said Palma, a father of three daughters of his own. "And she is. She's beautiful."
Palma said the woman — who declined to be interviewed for this story — said she had known Palma’s name for years, though he had never known hers. He was wearing his work uniform that day — which included his name badge.
'A wonderful guy'
Falco said it didn't surprise him that his longtime friend jumped in front of a train to save a stranger.
"He's a wonderful guy, and he's got a heart as big as this world," Falco said. "He would literally help out anybody."
"If it should happen again, I'd do it again in a heartbeat," Palma said.
Palma calls it a "miracle" that he was in the right place at the right time to help the woman, especially because he rarely took public transportation to work at that time.
"I could have taken a car to work, and that day I didn’t," he said. "Unexpected things happen in life, mysterious things."
The Blue Line hero of seven years ago said he can imagine what recent hero Eddie Palacios might be going through.
"You're gonna get little flashbacks, and your emotions start going," Palma said. "Will it ever go away from me in my mind? Never."
Palma said the experience gave him a new appreciation for life, and has made him more open with friends and family about what they mean to him.
"You cherish every moment you have because you never know what's gonna happen," he said. "You look at things differently. You wonder, 'Will I be here tomorrow?'"
Part of the experience can be haunting, he admits. It was a close call.
"You're scared sometimes," Palma said. "My life would could have been gone with her."
But it doesn't overshadow the good that came from that day.
"I look at it the other way, too," he said. "I didn’t save one life, I saved two.The way I deal with it is, I'm glad I was there."
DNAinfo Radio broke the story of another Blue Line rescue, and got the first interview with the hero himself, Eddie Palacios: