Today as I walked home from my studio, I found that a length of Naito Parkway was cordoned off by police. There were several fire trucks and many police officers. A small and scattered number of people were watching. At first I believed everyone was looking toward a parking lot between two office buildings; I thought there must be a car fire. Then I realized that everyone was looking up and to my horror I looked up too and saw a woman perched on the edge of the Fremont Bridge preparing to jump.
It was so awful, so very awful. The Fremont Bridge is the highest bridge in Portland. There are signs on it which ask those feeling suicidal to please call a hotline. The woman had climbed over a safety fence and was standing on what appeared to be a ledge made of pipes. She was high, so high that she appeared as just a black silhouette. But I caught a glimpse of her hair as she moved her head. At one point it seemed she sat on the rails swinging her feet below her. And below her … concrete, cement, road, railroad tracks. I wanted to move on, but I desperately needed to see her saved. I prayed and willed her to be lifted back over to safety.
I had called my husband earlier to tell him not to pick me up from my studio as I had seen that the road was blocked. A called him again, saying, “It’s a jumper..theres someone on the bridge.” He told me to leave, not to watch. I wasn’t watching so much, rather I was pleading with God, asking that this woman could live just one more day.
Chris walked down from our place and found me. He pulled me away. For years he had been a crime reporter. He covered many horrible stories and was afraid that one day he’d see the body of someone who had lost his/her life. He wasn’t going to see someone die today; we couldn’t change what would happen. I could pray away from this bridge.
We walked home and I looked back until I couldn’t any more. Then I found a spot on the ground and cried. I was so incredibly sad. I felt helpless and hopeless.
We got home and for the next several hours I refreshed the news pages on my computer waiting for an update.
I just learned that after four hours, the crisis negotiators were able to get the woman to climb back over. She is in the hospital now, getting the help she needs.
Across town, there is a man on the Vista Bridge positioned to jump. He has been there since 10 this morning. It is nearly 11 at night now and he is still there.
It is been the worst day for so many people. May those who are suffering find peace.