The proposal was going to be memorable, made on one knee on the pedestrian walkway above the Brooklyn Bridge, with all of New York spread out before Don Walling and his fiancee-to-be, Gina Pellicani. And then the ring flew out of the box and fell to the roadway below.
So Walling, who came Thursday to the TODAY studio with Pellicani to tell the story to Ann Curry, did the only thing a love-struck beau could do.
He climbed down the bridge’s superstructure, triggered a suicide jumper alert, convinced the cops he wasn’t crazy, and retrieved the ring. All while Pellicani and her bemused family watched and filmed the entire adventure.
“I got on a knee, said, ‘Will you marry me?’, opened the box, and it flew out,” Walling explained.
“I watched it fall through a crack in the bridge — right between the planks,” added Pellicani.
Curry wanted to know from Walling how he could drop the diamond engagement ring.
“I didn’t drop the ring,” Walling said firmly. “It fell out of the box. I didn’t drop it. There was no handling. We should really contact the makers of the box and get a better box made. That’s the whole problem here.”
The couple had been to dinner with family last week, ostensibly to celebrate Walling’s 29th birthday, and afterward he invited everyone to take a romantic stroll across the iconic bridge.
That’s when he got down on a knee and everything went wrong.
The video of the moment shows Walling with a look of blank shock and horror. He said his only thought was to retrieve the ring. Pellicani thought he was going to walk off the elevated pedestrian walkway and come back on the lower level. Instead, he climbed down the bridge tower as motorists yelled at him not to jump.
When he got to the roadway, a police suicide-prevention van pulled up and officers told him to calm down and not to jump.
“I just kept telling them, ‘I need to get that ring. I have to get that ring,’ ” Walling told Curry. “I lied to them. I said, ‘It’s 10 feet away.’ ”
Once police realized that Walling was a man in love, they held up traffic while Pellicani and her family directed him to the ring from above. It took him just a couple of minutes to find the ring. Although a car had run over it and damaged the platinum band, the one-carat main diamond and four satellite stones were undamaged.
The couple sent the ring out for repair and Pellicani wore her great-grandmother’s engagement ring to the TODAY Show.
Both Walling and Pellicani are teachers in New York’s public schools and have been dating for four years. They plan an April 24 wedding on Long Island.
“He does crazy things all the time, but this is definitely the craziest thing he’s ever done,” Pellicani told Curry. “I knew as soon as he said he was gonna go get it, he meant it. I just thought he was gonna walk around and down. He did not.”
Curry observed that a man who would do what Walling did is a keeper.
“Now he’s given me even more of a reason to love him,” Pellicani said.
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