So I was doing some research on the Golden Gate Bridge today, and I learned a lot. The Golden Gate Bridge, while being an iconic piece of American architecture, and a symbol of San Francisco, is also one of the most popular places in the world to commit suicide.
On average, one suicide occurs every fourteen days on the bridge. People come from all over the United States to jump from the bridge. It's really a tragedy.
This bridge, at its conception and then at completion, was celebrated for being a structure of remarkable design and beauty. On days where the fog has swept across the bay and you can't even see the tops of the towers, I can be sitting in rush hour, bumper-to-bumper traffic and still feel like I could reach up and touch Heaven. It's such a spiritual moment for me. On those times, I feel like God is reaching down, extending hope for the future, and opening my eyes to the beauty around me.
But for others who are drawn to the bridge with the misconception that a jump from the bridge's four foot high railing would be the easiest way to end their pain, it is a place where they spend their final moments before leaping to their watery grave below. The fall itself, lasts about four seconds. In those four seconds, who knows how many of the 1,300 people who are known to have jumped wanted to take back their decision to jump? Who, as they hit the water at 86 miles an hour, decided that they wanted to live? And how many cried as they struggled to swim the rough currents with broken ribs and vertebrae because they wanted a second chance at life?
I've really worked myself into quite a mood over this tonight. A film came out in 2006 called "The Bridge". Director Eric Steel documented a year at the bridge and his film not only captured twenty-three suicides, but also features interviews with the families of the departed. You can check out the trailer on YouTube if you like.
It can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zwl-Pa_QT0M&feature=fvw . Warning: this trailer made my spirits plummet, so unless you're completely heartless, consider what you're about to see and know that although the footage isn't graphic, you will never be able to erase what you see.
Although there have been discussions of setting up higher railings on the bridge to eliminate the possibility of jumping, the high speed winds that go through the bay, as well as the astronomical cost to build a structure 4200 feet across (on both sides... 8400 feet), a fence enclosure is out of the question. Even if funds were raised for one, it couldn't be built safely.
In 2008, however, the Golden Gate Bridge Board of Directors voted to build a net under the bridge that will extend 18 feet on either side of the bridge, and will hopefully not only be a visual deterrent, but also a physical restraint for those who are thinking about jumping.
The structure itself will cost $40-$50 million dollars to complete, but I feel like that's a small price to pay to save lives, families, and souls.
This post was written mainly for me to express my feelings about this bridge and to share what I've learned about it. If you or anyone you know has been considering suicide, please talk to someone about it. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, or visit their website http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. As someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, I can say that your life is worth living, and that someone loves you.
I'm sorry that this post was incredibly depressing. I just wanted to deal with all this knowledge in some way. Thanks for reading.