A man, a bridge, a jump of hopelessness,
And a second chance
Today was a normal summer day in Rhode Island.
Gorgeous sunlight slipping through the blind in my bedroom. A very welcomed natural wakeup call for what I hadn’t anticipated would be such an eventful day.
I woke with my morning practice of studying up on world events while sipping some green tea.
I readied for myself for an early morning breakfast meeting.
I showered. Shaved. Put on deodorant, cologne, and clothing.
Once prepared, I ventured out over the Mount Hope Bridge. While attentively crossing the bridge I made sure, as I almost always do, to appreciate the nearly perfect natural beauty of the bay.
Little did I know my next cross over the bridge would take an unpleasant turn.
I enjoyed a delicious, and inexpensive, breakfast at a local establishment. Few things beat a delicious breakfast at a good price. This you can find at a handful of local joints around these parts.
The breakfast meeting went much longer than anticipated; as if it were meant to.
A short drive and I found myself again crossing the Mount Hope Bridge.
As I began my appreciative gaze I noticed something out of the ordinary; something disconcerting.
I looked left. I saw a man. A man leaning against a vertical beam at the peak of the Bridge. An average looking man, likely in his forties, sporting a collared shirt and khaki shorts. Maybe someone’s husband, father, son, brother.
We proceeded past this man.
Before we reached the end of the Mount Hope Bridge it was easily determined we should phone the Bristol PD.
I informed the dispatcher of what I saw, and she assured me they’d send a unit.
When I returned to my apartment, it all didn’t sit well with me.
I knew the police would respond. But I had to know what happened to this stranger on the Mount Hope Bridge.
I rushed to my car and proceeded for over the hundredth time to the Mount Hope Bridge, this time for a more disheartening purpose. As I rolled down 114 the sounds of sirens blaring significantly disturbed me.
The closer I got to the Bridge the slower traffic moved.
As I hit the base of the Bridge traffic was at a standstill.
Several police cars were stationed at the top of the Bridge. Three of these vehicles proceeded northbound and passed me. One was a Portsmouth cruiser, two were Bristol PD vehicles.
They quickly turned into the pull off before the Mount Hope Bridge and began to search a dark vehicle parked there and conversing with each other.
I turned my car around and entered the pull off.
I had to know. I cared to know.
I informed one of the Bristol officers I had phoned in about the man on the Mount Hope Bridge. I wanted to know what became of the man on the Mount Hope Bridge.
The officer informed me quickly that the man jumped.
My heart sank. I wondered if we should have stopped. I wondered if there was anything more I could have done than ‘just call the police.’
The officer then proceeded to inform me that the man on the Mount Hope Bridge was “okay” and was “on a (emergency) boat” down in the water.
I felt joy. I felt happiness. I cared.
I cared that the nameless man that I’ve only referred to the “man on the Mount Hope Bridge” survived his desperate jump from the Bridge.
He was “okay.” Good.
The officer retorted at me, as I was lost for words, quite calmly, almost callously, “What can you do? You’d be surprised how much we see this.”
Perhaps he is true. Perhaps little can be done.
But if there is ANYTHING that can be done then we should try with all our might to do it.
Maybe it is an officer’s attempt at exuding confidence and calmness in the face of someone jumping over 13 stories to what they foresaw as their death.
Maybe he “has to” act in such a way to deal with such pain that must go along with seeing suicide attempts, and completed suicides, and other shockingly traumatic events. I hear the same about doctors who lose patients, or lawyers whose clients are locked away. You have to compartmentalize these events and “not let them get to you.”
What almost jarred me as much of knowing I saw a man in extreme pain, sadness, and desperation just before he attempted to take his life was the casual nature of this officer and the fact, to my knowledge, I was the only one to have phoned the police about the man on the Mount Hope Bridge.
How many people saw this man staggering his way along the narrow “sidewalk” on the bridge to its peak? How many people drove by this troubled man as thoughts of the stresses in his life overcame him and brought him to the point of attempting suicide? How many people witnessed this man’s walk through the darkness? I didn’t watch his walk down the passage of potential death. I saw some of the last few seconds as he soaked in a beautiful Rhode Island day. What he anticipated would be his last moments on this earth. Maybe in that moment he found some sense of comfort he had so struggled for up until today at 1:00pm EST.
He has a second chance now.
I care to know he does.
Depression is real. Our society is beginning to realize and understand the biological imbalances of the brain that create such inescapable and incomprehensible sadness. But many suffer in the shadows. Too many perceive depression, and its brethren, as a weakness. We would not deem someone with diabetes, a kidney disease, or another biological disease as weak. We treat these people. We care for these people. Maybe the man on the Mount Hope Bridge was “too proud” to seek help, or maybe that help was insufficient.
Whatever brought him to that Bridge today I hope will never emerge again for him.
After all, he is “okay.” He survived.
Man on the Mount Hope Bridge, I hope you find the help, peace, and comfort you had not found before today.
For more information on depression, how to help yourself or the ones you care about please check out: