The beautiful bridge across the Golden Gate In San Francisco opened in 1937. It was, and is, a marvel of engineering and beauty – but it’s also a magnet for death.
The first suicide from the bridge took place within the first week of the bridge being open; and since then, more than 1700 people have killed themselves the same way.
It’s hard to imagine what drives people to jump over the four-foot railing. I worked with a man who took his life that way. He was brilliant, charming and successful and not one anyone would think was troubled. But he was; and one day, to the shock of everyone who knew him, he jumped.
It takes just four seconds to hit the water. Engineers tell us that it’s comparable to hitting a wall of concrete at full speed. The human body is ripped apart internally. Only a small number of people have survived, but not without gruesome injuries. My friend died instantly.
While the bridge is a tourist magnet for the city of San Francisco, there has long been an effort to prevent the deaths. After much controversy and haggling over money and esthetics, it was finally decided to build a suicide prevention net under the bridge. The wire net of steel extends beneath the 1.7-mile bridge – under both sides of the structure. It extends 25 feet out from the railing on each side, so it won’t be possible to see straight down to the water, which will reduce the mesmerizing appearance of the bay below.
The cost of the suicide prevention net is expected to be $220 million when it’s completed, and it’s hoped it will put an end to the weekly toll of jumpers. There is no doubt bridge personnel would be glad to see it, since they are first on the scene when such death attempts are made. They are there to stop the jumpers, or there to help claim the bodies. Either way, it’s a horror.
While I have no argument about the need to do something about the suicides, the reality is California is schizophrenic about death – and suicide, in particular.
On the one hand, the state is willing to spend millions of dollars to try to prevent suicides from the bridge, yet it has made assisted suicide legal. It’s not the first state to do that; but we’ve made it legal for a doctor to “help” someone to die, or to provide the person with the means to take their own life.
Despite that, there are major statewide efforts for “suicide prevention.” There are media intervention efforts, hotlines, counseling, and lots of advertising in all media – all to the goal of preventing suicides.
Part of the effort for gun control in the state is the goal of preventing firearm suicides and accidental shootings. A dear friend lost a child in their family due to a gun suicide, so I understand the horror and the grief such a situation presents to the family, not understanding what drove the victim to take such a drastic step to end their pain.
While California legalized assisted suicide, it’s also in favor of abortion. Like it or not, abortion is the deliberate killing of a preborn human being. In a sane world, that would be considered murder, but we do not live in a sane world. Those abortion deaths are “OK” with the state but, when someone wants to end their own life, that is not OK.
Am I the only one who thinks this whole scenario is crazy? The left hand won’t admit what the right hand is doing.
While I know there are religious aspects to the issue of suicide, I’m not arguing that here. I have always felt that if someone wants to kill themselves, making the decision on their own, and doing it themselves, they should have a perfect right to do it. It’s their life and their right to do what they will with it.
But do it alone. It’s when they enlist the “help”” of a doctor or others that I draw the line.
There’s no question such deaths are a turmoil for the family and friends, but that’s not my point. The issue is the right of an individual to do themselves in, if that is what they decide.
As for California taxpayers spending $220 million to help prevent an estimated 40 deaths a year – the real question is, is it worth it?
Or is the real issue, that having the Golden Gate Bridge be a suicide target isn’t the best scenario for tourism?
Think about it – it always comes down to money, doesn’t it?