Sgt. Nick Risner saved lives throughout his career. Saturday morning, he passed away, making the ultimate sacrifice for his community.
WAAY 31 spoke with Emma Gregory, who said she wouldn't be here if it weren't for Risner. Gregory met Risner along O'Neal Bridge in 2019. That random encounter ultimately saved Gregory, because she was just minutes away from taking her own life.
She now says she would have done anything to be able to return the favor.
“If I could have, I would have taken that bullet for Nick," Gregory said. "I would have. I would have stood in front of him and taken those bullets, because that’s what he deserves."
On Dec. 30, 2019, Gregory first experienced Risner's selflessness. She was in her darkest moments and about to take her own life, she said, but by the grace of God, Risner got off work 15 minutes early and found Gregory on O'Neal Bridge.
“If he wouldn’t have gotten off work early, I wouldn’t be here today," Gregory said. "So, those 15 minutes were a literal matter of life and death."
He was the light she needed at that very moment. She described him as her lifeline.
“I literally owe him my life," she said.
That random encounter wasn't the last time they'd see each other, either. The two stayed in touch, and Risner surprised Gregory at her graduation party.
“It meant so much to me," she said. "He hugged me and said, ‘I knew you could do it, and I told you you could do it, and you made it. You graduated.’ He told me that on the bridge that night. He said, ‘You will do everything you set your mind out to do,’ and he made sure that I did.”
His caring nature continues on.
“God put Nick Risner on this world for a reason, and that man saved more lives than he even knows. There’s no way he knows how many lives he’s saved, because he did it with every breath," she said. “He really was a guardian angel to, I want to say, hundreds, but honestly, probably thousands of lives.”
Gregory told WAAY 31 that she fell to the ground screaming and crying when she found out he passed away. Just hours after learning the tragic news, she was reminded he was always going to be there supporting her.
“He not only cared about everyone so much when he was alive, but he left someone to make sure I was OK," said Gregory.
If he ever died in the line of duty, Risner wanted to make sure Gregory was still taken care of. He made sure one of his friends would reach out and check on her.
Gregory said it speaks volumes to who Risner was: a hero she said she will never forget.
"I saw him as invincible. He was my literal superhero," said Gregory. "Until his last dying breath, he protected and he served, and he loved."
Gregory told WAAY 31 that Risner thought of every day as another chance to save yet another life by loving and caring for them. She plans to continue his legacy by doing the same.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.