In the four-second fall from the bridge, survivors say, time does seem to slow. Jumpers who hit the water do so at about seventy-five miles an hour and with a force of fifteen thousand pounds per square inch. Eighty-five per cent of them suffer broken ribs, which rip inward and tear through the spleen, the lungs, and the heart.
Vertebrae snap, and the liver often ruptures. Those who survive the impact usually die soon afterward. If they go straight in, they plunge so deeply into the water—which reaches a depth of three hundred and fifty feet—that they drown. The rare survivors always hit feet first, and at a slight angle. Already this year, two bodies have vanished entirely. On December 17, , fourteen-year-old Marissa Imrie, a petite and attractive straight-A student who had planned to become a psychiatrist, left her second-period class at Santa Rosa High School, took a hundredand-fifty-dollar taxi ride to the Golden Gate, and jumped to her death.
Everyone is better off without this fat, disgusting, boring girl. Move on. Imrie used the property with due care for the purposes it was designed.
As Joseph Strauss, the chief engineer of the Golden Gate, watched his beloved suspension bridge rise over San Francisco Bay in the nineteen-thirties, he could not imagine that anyone would use it without due care for its designated purpose. His body was never found. The original design called for the rail to be five and a half feet high, but this was lowered to four feet in the final blueprint, for reasons that are lost to history.
In May, , Strauss died of a heart attack, likely brought on by the stress of seeing the bridge to completion. And at the dedication ceremony A. The Golden Gate Bridge, for my dead friend, turned out to be a mute monument of misery.
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The coverage intensified in , when the Chronicle and the Examiner initiated countdowns to the five-hundredth recorded jumper. In , as No. A local disk jockey went so far as to promise a case of Snapple to the family of the victim.
That June, trying to stop the countdown fever, the California Highway Patrol halted its official count at In early July, Eric Atkinson, age twenty-five, became the unofficial thousandth; he was seen jumping, but his body was never found. The Bay Area media now usually report bridge jumps only if they involve a celebrity or tie up traffic. So were Mt. Mihara, a volcano in Japan more than six hundred people jumped into it in alone ; the Arroyo Seco Bridge, in Pasadena; and the Eiffel Tower. At all of these places, after the barriers were in place the number of jumpers declined to a handful, or to zero.
Richard Seiden, the Berkeley suicide expert, told me. In , the board of the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District began studying eighteen suicide-barrier proposals, including a nine-foot wire fence, a nylon safety net, and even high-voltage laser beams. In , a company called Z-Clip suggested that one of its livestock fences serve as a barrier. The bridge board would not approve it, however. He says that a barrier is no longer being actively considered, and that only he and three or four other board members favor one.
For the past twenty-five years, however, three hundred and fifty feet of the southern end of the bridge have been festooned with an eight-foot-tall cyclone fence, directly above the Fort Point National Park site on the shore of the Bay. Another factor is cost, which would seem particularly important now that the Bridge District has a projected five-year shortfall of more than two hundred million dollars.
The Final Leap: Suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge - John Bateson - Google книги
Yet, in October, construction will be completed on a fifty-four-inch-high steel barrier between the walkway and the adjacent traffic lanes which is meant to prevent bicyclists from veering into traffic. A familiar argument against a barrier is that thwarted jumpers will simply go elsewhere. Although this belief makes intuitive sense, it is demonstrably untrue. After, on average, more than twenty-six years, ninety-four per cent of the would-be suicides were either still alive or had died of natural causes.
The most important element is randomly scheduled patrols by California Highway patrolmen and Golden Gate Bridge personnel in squad cars and on foot, bicycle, and motorcycle. In two visits to the bridge, I spent an hour and a half on the walkway and never saw a patrolman. Kevin Briggs, a friendly, sandy-haired motorcycle patrolman, has a knack for spotting jumpers and talking them back from the edge; he has coaxed in more than two hundred potential jumpers without losing one over the side. The non-physical barrier catches between fifty and eighty people each year, and misses about thirty.
The Final Leap: Suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge
Having viewed the Telemundo tape, they believe that when Alarab was putting down his antiwar statement he slipped and fell. An accident is easier for friends and family to accept, whereas suicide leaves behind nothing but guilt. As the eminent suicidologist E. I have my own problems.
Last February, she went on a foot patrol with five Golden Gate patrolmen so that she would understand that detail better. Five minutes after our last contact with him, he walked to the mid-span and looked back. We all took off after him; I was only twenty feet away when he went over. We saw him go in, feet first. But I had nightmares for a week. Should I have grabbed his ankles?
Should there be a barrier? Some people come here, find themselves, and leave; some come here, find themselves, and jump. The bridge comes into the lives of all Bay Area residents sooner or later, and it often stays. Jerome Motto, who has been part of two failed suicidebarrier coalitions, is now retired and living in San Mateo. When I visited him there, we spent three hours talking about the bridge. Motto had a patient who committed suicide from the Golden Gate in , but the jump that affected him most occurred in the seventies. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.
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Jim Jones rallying for a suicide barrier in , months before the Jonestown Kool-Aid tragedy. Bateson notes the bridge is the only landmark of its kind without a barrier—the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Empire State Building have all been equipped. Yet its governing body hesitates, largely, it seems, because they fear a barrier will be ugly, expensive, and that people will kill themselves some other way.
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The Final Leap: Suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge
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