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Orange County Firefighters Give CBS 2 Reporter A Lesson In High Stakes Rescue

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Heroes in the making taught CBS 2's Lou Young a lesson he will never forget. Firefighters from Orange County took their training high above the Hudson River and Young went along with them on Thursday.

Even at a distance, it was unnerving for Megan Andersen as she watched her firefighter husband dangle high above the Hudson.

"They want to do this. They want to do it the right way. So they're into it 100 percent," she said.

Up on the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, which is 50 miles north of the city, a joint exercise was conducted Thursday to help firefighters ease the fear of hanging high above the water during team rope rescues.

As Young looked on, CBS 2 assignment editor Andrew Friedman suggested to him that "maybe they'll let you rappel from the bridge."

After giving some consideration to 160 feet of air and the Hudson River below him, Young asked the man in charge if he could give it a try and soon there was no looking back.

"Every nerve in your body says 'don't do it,' but you take the leap of faith," Young said.

CBS 2's Lou Young
CBS 2's Lou Young took a leap of faith on June 2, 2011, and came away with an even greater appreciation of the work firefighters do. (Photo: CBS 2)

Admitting that it was not easy to step off the beam and into thin air, Young said he took some time to glance at the spectacular view, but couldn't take his eyes off the ropes held by team of men at the top.

As Young described it, the hardest moments were standing at the edge of the bridge with the "yawning emptiness of space" at his back and "stepping off into nothingness for the descent to an upside-down, open-armed salute to the rippling river far below."

The professionals, however, have to help people in danger from that upside-down position -- making their training all the more impressive.

"You have to, while you're upside down, assess them. To see how hurt they are, what they're going to need so we can let the people up above know what we have to lower to them," Capt. Sammy Contes said.

The fire departments from Newburgh and West Point also participated in Thursday's exercise.

As for Young, he said that his "heart has never beat that fast" and he came away with a great appreciation for the work of the brave firefighters, whose job it is to rescue people in distress.

"Those guys are freakin' awesome," Young remarked.

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