LEWISTON — It was January 2017.

Keirsten Walder was doing badly. Very badly.

“I had tried to overdose and harm myself,” she said. She was suicidal.

The police were called.

The first on the scene was Lewiston Police Department Officer Garrett Clark. As they waited for the ambulance, he stayed with her, encouraging her not to give up on life. He spoke to her family.

Responding to a Sun Journal query asking readers to share what they’re thankful for this Thanksgiving, Walder wrote that she’s “extra thankful for the police officer who saved my life.”

When he arrived after she had overdosed, “he did not judge me one bit as to why I was doing what I was doing. He talked to me like a person and helped me stay calm while I waited for the ambulance.”

After that day she never got to meet him. She didn’t know which officer he was.

“But I think about that day almost every day. I think about how if he was not the first one there, I probably would not be where I am today,” she wrote. “The interaction with him that day, during one of the toughest days of my life, helped save my life.”

Some may say he was only doing his job, she added. “But to someone who was suicidal and had not much will to live any longer, it helped me through that.”

Walder told the Sun Journal she wanted to thank the officer for being so kind to her.

One day, she wrote, she’ll figure out who the officer was and thank him in person.

After hearing Walder’s hope to deliver thanks, the Sun Journal called Lewiston Police Department Lt. Dave St. Pierre, who looked up the emergency call and said the officer was Garrett Clark.

Would he be willing to meet Walder and have their photo taken for a Sun Journal Thanksgiving story?

“I’ll be there,” Clark said.

The next day Walder and Clark met again, under very different circumstances.

The two looked at each other and smiled. She came across as shy and soft spoken as she handed him a Thin Blue Line American flag she made for him. A member of the Army National Guard, Clark is leaving for a month to attend officer training.

“That’s cool,” Clark said as he accepted her gift. “I really appreciate it.”

In the lobby of the Lewiston station, Walder said what she’s wanted to say in person for nearly two years.

“Thank you. You didn’t judge me for what I did. I’m going to cry.” Others would have disregarded the person’s feelings or what was going on, she said.

That’s not what police officers do, Clark said.

“I’m not here to judge people. I’m just here to give them help. I’m glad I could be there for you that day,” he said.

It’s unusual for police to hear thank you, he said.

“We get calls like that. We always make sure they’re OK and get the help they need. We don’t get reached out to after it happens. We don’t know what happens to people.”

When someone comes back to say that police helped them and they’re doing better, “it’s really appreciated,” Clark said.

Turning to Walder, he said, “I’m glad you’re doing good.”

“I’m back at school,” she said, a student at Central Maine Community College.

Walder said she’d like to become a child life specialist, someone who helps children who are hospital patients.

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Keirsten Walder is thankful that Lewiston Police Officer Garrett Clark stayed with her and encouraged her when she felt suicidal. In thanks, Walder made the Thin Blue Line American flag for Clark. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

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