On Sunday, May 27, 2012, the Bay Area commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. First opened to the public in 1937, the bridge is an engineering marvel and one of the man-made wonders of the world. Few images of the San Francisco Bay Area are complete without it.
There is another number we must consider during this anniversary: 1,558. That is the number of lives to date that have been confirmed lost to suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge since it opened. More lives have been lost to suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge than on any other structure in the world: an average of two confirmed deaths per month, to say nothing of unconfirmed deaths. Countless more lives have been impacted: family, friends, bystanders who have witnessed jumps, bridge patrolman, Coast Guard sailors, and bridge workers.
In his new book, The Final Leap, author John Bateson courageously takes on this taboo topic and reveals a stunning truth long known to Bay Area suicide prevention activists: suicide from the bridge easily could be prevented, even ended, if a suicide barrier were erected, but an astonishing lack of political will and awareness around a barrier have thus far prevented any lifesaving measures from being enacted – a shame we must collectively acknowledge and act to change.
The Bridge Rail Foundation, who has for years fought tirelessly for a suicide barrier, will be present at the anniversary celebrations at Crissy Field. Take a moment to see their Whose Shoes? exhibit. Contemplate the enormous tragedy of lives needlessly lost. And learn what you can do to apply the political pressure needed to stop the tragic loss of lives from one of America’s greatest icons.
Coming soon: A review of Bateson’s groundbreaking book, The Final Leap (UC Press, April 2012).