Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Every year several dozen people leap off the Golden Gate Bridge. 225 feet below, the water is cold and the current is strong. Few survive. In 2004 Eric Steel set up a camera and shot for a year to explore this phenomenon in this unique place. He did capture people in the process of jumping, and his film, “The Bridge,” is haunting and powerful.

“The Bridge” focused public attention on what has been a recurring issue in my beautiful city: Should we take steps to prevent would-be leapers from leaping?

Inevitably, taking steps means putting some sort of barrier in place. Putting some sort of barrier in place creates design and engineering problems. Over the years various proposals have been put forth, and for one reason or another none of them has gotten past the talking stage.

Recently, the talking has been supplemented by specific suggestions for how to do it. We, the public, have been asked to make suggestions and tell the bridge authorities what we think. I went online and joined my fellow citizens in expressing an opinion. My opinion was simply – do nothing. As it turns out 75% of us felt this way.

A more formal public hearing was held. Of the five designs (each costing $40-50 million to implement) only one, a net that would catch the leapers after they leapt, received any degree of support. I must say that of the various proposals, that was the only one that I would accept, but I wondered how that would really stop a determined person. We were assured that the net would so enmesh the jumper as to make it next to impossible to get loose and jump again.

All of this, however, is not the point. The point is that if someone wants to kill himself, unless he is behaving in a way that is a cry for help and is in fact asking us to stop him, we have no right to get in his way. (Change the gender in the previous sentence if that makes you feel better.)

I know there are people who fail in the attempt and later on say they’re glad they failed, but that doesn’t change my opinion. Admittedly, I think the Golden Gate Bridge is exquisitely beautiful as is, and I don’t want to add fences or other contraptions that will detract from it. But more importantly, I don’t like the government telling us what we can and can’t do, unless it has to do with harming others.

So like I said – do nothing.


Anonymous Celia said...

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4:11 PM  

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