The young man was straddling the bridge abutment, leaning toward the water far below then jerking back as he weighed whether to live or die.
Nicole Oyola, 23, was driving across the expanse connecting Tampa and St. Petersburg, her mind on other things, when he came into view.
"I slowed down and I could see tears coming down his face, like he had been crying for hours," the office worker told InsideEdition.com Wednesday. She pulled to a stop a "discreet distance away," she said, and began walking toward him.
When he put both legs over the rail, she started running. "I love you so much," she shouted. "God loves you so much. I just want to give you a hug!"
And with those words, Oyola saved the man's life.
He dropped his feet on the highway side of the bridge and walked away from the rail. "Once I hugged him, he just started shaking. He kept saying, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.' And I didn't understand why he kept saying he was sorry."
Another person approached and began comforting the man. Oyola was able to step away and dial 911. As she was talking to the dispatcher, a patrol car stopped behind Oyola's car, abandoned on the side of the busy bridge. "I hadn't even put my emergency lights on," she said. "He was going to give me a ticket."
She hollered to him, saying, "We need help over here." When she told him the young man had tried to kill himself, the officer led the group in prayer.
Oyola said talked with the man, who she said "was no older than 20," for a good long time. "He told me a lot of things," she said. "Really personal things. I decided not to disclose them. It was very painful for him to tell me. It was really horrible," she said.
She is committed to protecting his privacy. "If I were in his shoes, I wouldn't want someone to repeat those things," she said.
She did share what she told him: "God has a purpose for you. God has a purpose for everyone in this world."
Eventually, he was driven away in a police cruiser and checked into a psychiatric facility. Oyola heard from a friend of his on Facebook that the man was being treated for his depression. She hopes that he is OK.
"He didn't want to go on," she said. "I just hope that he gets the help he needs." She didn't get his name. She didn't get his phone number.
"I was crying the whole time," she said. "Just the fact that I was able to help that kid changed my life. We're always complaining about things," things that don't really matter in the panorama of life, she said.
"I realized there are other people in this world who are going through much worse things than me," she said. "I had to stop. As I was walking toward him, I was thinking, 'I don't know what I'm going to find when I get there, but I just need to give this kid a hug.'"