Bianca Vera walked into the fire station Monday with gift bags in hand, a microphone clipped to her shirt and a camera crew following behind.
Vera, 22, decided to thank the Gainesville firefighters and police officers who saved her after she took a daring 40-foot jump from the Dawsonville Highway bridge into Lake Lanier on Feb. 10.
"Inside Edition" reporters captured the hugs and smiles.
"These were the guys who got me out. They were the ones who saved my life," she said. "I've been excited since I found out I was going to meet them. I really wanted to do something to thank them."
Vera handed out seven red bags with koala bears on the front. The men quietly shuffled through the tissue paper and pulled out hats with "I'm a hero" printed on the front and the date of Vera's rescue embroidered on the side. They pulled on the hats and took pictures with Vera in Gainesville's new Fire Station 1 off Queen City Parkway.
"Out of everything that happened, the end result was good on everyone's behalf," said Jerome Yarbrough, the city's fire marshal. "We're just doing our job, and this is an ‘attaboy' for our guys."
On that icy morning, Vera slid into the guardrail and exited her car to check the damage. Seeing an oncoming truck driving her way, Vera jumped from the bridge and swam for almost an hour to reach the shore, she said. After rescue crews picked her up, she was hospitalized for hypothermia and a broken back.
Since she left the hospital, Vera hasn't had much rest. With camera crews and satellite trucks sitting outside of her home, she's told her story again and again to local news channels, "Good Morning America" and Fox News. On Wednesday, a CNN crew will take her back to the scene to reflect on her jump.
"It's been surreal to have everyone in my living room," Vera said Monday after the segment was filmed and the cameras were turned off. "People are recognizing me, too. We were at Walmart yesterday and someone asked if I was that girl who jumped off the bridge. Yeah, that's me."
Read more in tomorrow's Times.