Marc Manfro of Castaic was driving to the beach Sunday morning when he saw something he could hardly believe: a woman standing in the middle of the westbound 10 Freeway as cars whizzed past her at up to 70 miles an hour.
The retired New York Police Department officer had just gotten on the freeway from the 405 shortly after 8 a.m. Sunday when he saw the middle-aged woman a few hundred yards in the distance standing in the middle of five lanes of traffic at Bundy Drive.
"What dawns at me when I see that is in all likelihood I'm going to see this poor woman get killed," Manfro, 51, said in a telephone interview Monday. "I didn't know how she got into this predicament. I never saw anything like that in my life. ...Even though it's a million-to-one shot, I said I'm going to see if I can do something about this."
Manfro said he put his hazard lights on and came to a stop about a couple of car lengths from the woman. He then parked his car partly on the freeway's right shoulder and partly in the far right lane.
"My idea is I got to try and figure out how can I get these lanes to slow down so we can get her to get off the road and get her to safety," he said.
Manfro got out of his car and got a minivan in the far right to stop so that it blocked the fifth lane. He said he got another car to stop in the fourth lane.
Manfro then made a beeline for the woman, who was in the third lane, as cars whizzed past. He grabbed her, lifted her up in the air and carried her to the right shoulder of the road. The woman resisted him, he said, yelling "You're not God."
Manfro said he realized then that the woman, was in tattered clothing and may have been homeless, was likely having problems or wanted to harm herself.
M'Lissa Fleming of Westchester was driving the minivan with her husband and two children when they noticed cars going around something, which turned out to be the woman.
"She was facing oncoming traffic, with a very blank look on her face and wasn't moving," Fleming said Monday.
After seeing Manfro pull over, Fleming pulled up into the right lane and slowed down to call 9-1-1. She saw Manfro grab the woman in a bear hug, lift her up and carry her to the side of the road.
Fleming said she was grateful that no one had hit the woman on the freeway since their children were in the car.
"For us to see that, and for them to see that, would have really sucked," she said.
She's also grateful, she said, that Manfro saw the woman when he did and knew exactly what to do.
"Marc was life-saving," she said. "I don't know if anybody else would have been able to get her off the road. I wasn't going to do it. ... Marc was really great in getting her off and making sure she was taken care of once she was off."
California Highway Patrol Officer Karina Munoz of the CHP's West Los Angeles office said the woman was already being held down for her safety by Manfro on the freeway shoulder when an officer arrived at the scene. Manfro gave a similar account of the incident to the CHP officer Sunday, she said.
"It takes a certain kind of person to put yourself out there to try to save someone else," Munoz said. "He did a good job. ... Do we want people to intervene like that? It's dangerous. The whole thing is just dangerous in itself. We don't want anyone hurt obviously ... but sometimes when people step up it's nice to see."
The 42-year-old woman, who gave a Los Angeles address and whose name was not released, was taken to a hospital for medical evaluation, Munoz said.
Manfro, who worked for NYPD for 17 years, said he's been involved in a number of rescues in his life, including saving a homeless man in New York City who had been set on fire by two teens in 1989 and chasing down the suspects.
Manfro was also assigned to guard the World Trade Center site after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The airborne contaminants he took in during that six-month on-and-off stint, he said, made him too sick to work for six years.
Today, Manfro, who is married with two sons, works as a security consultant for executives and celebrities.
His wife, Terry, who was at work during the Sunday morning incident, said her husband is a calm man who will help anyone, anytime.
"He always says to me that nothing is life or death unless it really is," she said. "He's a great guy."
When the rescued woman on Sunday told Manfro that he was not God, he said he told her that she was right.
"I said 'I agree with you I'm not God but today I'm doing his work.'"