A week ago today, Wash. Department of Transportation crews finished the nine foot safety barriers on the sides of the 167-foot high cantilever/truss Aurora Bridge (a/k/a The George Washington Memorial Bridge)that carries Highway 99 (formerly known as The Pacific Highway) across the Ship Canal. Hallelujah! We drove by and admired the work this weekend.
The Aurora Bridge's height and easy pedestrian access have long made it a popular location for suicide jumpers. In fact, the first person to leap to their death from the bridge did so while it was still under construction, in 1932. It took us until 2006 to install six emergency phones and 18 signs to encourage people to seek help instead of jumping. People even put up home-made stickers that asked people not to jump and call a suicide hotline instead. Someone even posted their own number "call me! I care about YOU!"
These fences are a beautiful thing, when you consider their potential. If only a couple of people turn away a year, it is money well spent. The Aurora Bridge is the No. 2 bridge for suicides in North America. It was No. 3 until Toronto fenced their bridge. In fact, since they put up that fence, there have been no suicides. This has happened at every bridge where they have installed fences. That is goodness. One week in 2009, three people jumped from the bridge, two of them "successfully." True, you will not stop someone determined to end themselves, but you will stop impulse jumpers and people who might reconsider. One statistic we heard recently said that of all the people who came close to jumping, but turned back, 94% don't ever come close again. If these fences buy the despondent two minutes to think, then, in our booklet, that's five million dollars well spent. Seeing these fences go up makes our hearts sing.