Yesterday afternoon, approx. 4PM, I was outside with my kids and one of my neighbors and his kids. We started noticing an inordinate amount of cars on our normally quiet street. We figured perhaps there was an accident somewhere that resulted in detouring of cars and hence, the increased traffic.
After about 15 minutes or so of watching this seemingly endless stream of cars, I decide to walk around the block to see if I could ascertain the cause of this sudden influx of cars.
I went alone.
As I turned the corner to approach the intersection of Knights & Woodhaven Roads in NE Philly, I saw a crowd of people along with assorted emergency vehicles – fire, police, etc. Looked like my assumption was right: Accident.
It turned out someone – a young man in his early to mid twenties was standing on the 1-95 overpass, on the “outer” side on the other side of a chain link fence. This man was contemplating jumping. This man was considering committing suicide.
I could not believe what was unfolding before my eyes. Other than in the movies, I had never see anything like it. Here I was, no more than a few hundred yards from someone who was thinking of taking their own life. It was surreal.
I was completely transfixed by what was unfolding before my eyes. I was equally transfixed by the crowd that had formed. It was comprised primarily of people around the same age of the man we were all fixated on: early-mid 20s, some older, some younger… some MUCH younger.
Behind me, in a bank parking lot, sat two grown people, presumably a husband and wife. They sat in the front seats of their pickup truck. Seated on top of the cab of the truck sat (presumably) their two daughters, no older than 10. These innocent children sat perched waiting as if a fireworks display was about to ensue.
I was disgusted, shocked, appalled, dismayed, and on and on and on at the same time. I started to walk toward these “parents” to ask them if they realized the possibly life-altering, traumatic effects something like this could have on their children. I knew my words would fall on deaf ears but I did not care.
Sadly, I stopped dead in my tracks when I noticed yet more children of the same age group in attendance in the crowd. It was then I realized it would have been futile for me as I would have to essentially speak to half of the crowd and ask them collectively “What the hell is wrong with you?”
Did these people really want to have their children watch someone jump to their death? Apparently they didn’t care.
Nor did the oh-so-sweet young woman in the crowd who uttered aloud for all to hear “Jeezus Christ, I can’t go anywhere cause this jackass is up there… just go ahead and jump already.”
My how proud your mother and father must be… of course they were probably somewhere in the crowd, too.
But just when I had lost all hope for finding the good in people…
The crowd let out a loud cheer when the young man on the ledge decided to not take his own life, having eventually been talked down by the suicide prevention experts on scene.
The crowd quickly dispersed and as I made my way home, I began to question my own reasoning for staying. After all, I could have left after ascertaining the root cause of all the increased traffic and simply found out later what had ultimately transpired.
But I didn’t. I was drawn to this surreal scene like so many others in the crowd.
Was there something wrong with me for staying?
Did I really want to see someone jump to their death?
Why did any of us stay to watch?
I have always been fascinated by human nature and why people do the things they do. Perhaps that is the reason I stayed. I hope so. I certainly was relieved with the outcome. But I have to admit there was something that kept my attention and had an undeniable grip on it that was only to be released when this situation reached its ultimate climax.
By the way… I have searched for something, anything about this story on the Internet to no avail. There was also no mention of it on the local news telecasts.
I cannot help but wonder how much media attention this would have received if the outcome had been different.
Sad but true.
‘Til next time.