bg/ish: Seven Hour Suicide Watch
Wednesday, 5:18 p.m.
My usual ride home from work is interrupted by SFPD blocking off Valencia street at 16th. Crowds are gathering. My initial confusion goes away when I look up...
That man, 5 stories up, on the roof, is threatening to jump.
A conflicting wave of thought and emotion rolls over me. Fear, concern, compassion, anger, apprehension. Police are doing their best to control both traffic and the crowds. Strangers talk amongst themselves as the anticipation and tension in the air is thick and palpable.
He had been up there for approximately 20 minutes.
* * * * *
Most of the conversations I had consisted of the same thought...
"I don't want to see him jump."
...and yet we all seemed strangely compelled to stand there and wait to see what exactly would happen. The strange reality of it all was setting in on us as we discussed the situation unfolding before us.
"If he jumps, I'm turning my head", one man said to me.
"It won't matter, you'll hear the impact", I replied. Not trying to be macabre, just evaluating the reality of what we were seeing.
"This is just like some shit out of a movie."
* * * * *
An hour passed. Eventually, the man sat down on the ledge. Police attempted to talk him down. The crowd would thin out and then swell up as new passerby's stopped to see what was going on. Police shouted at people not to be "looky-loos", but who can blame people? This is our neighborhood, and a man was effectively holding it hostage.
I left. I went home. I was going to meet friends, but I grabbed the good camera and went back to the scene on my way. The man was still there, and it seemed nothing had changed.
I spoke with two employees of the Mexican resturaunt next door to the building the man was now sitting atop.
"We can't get to work. The people inside can't leave, we don't know what to do."
It began to dawn on me that, despite whatever troubles this person was having to lead him to the point of a potentially public suicide, he was infringing on the rights of the people who lived and worked in the neighborhood, and our police and fire resources were being used in a way that was beginning to seem wasteful, to prevent a suicide that seemed less and less likely to happen.
Police on the street were getting frustrated with controlling the crowds. The crowds were getting frustrated with the situation. One man held the key to the resolution, and he was either coming down safely, or coming down in a heap.
I left, silently wishing for the best.
* * * * *
Shortly after midnight, police were able to talk the man down safely.
Around 9:30, before I went to bed, I posted the following comments on MissionMission...
"i agree it was a sad scene for a while. i came across it trying to get home from work. but after a couple of hours, it dawned on me what a waste of our tax dollars and police and fire resources, and how it was effectively shutting down the local businesses on that block.
what a jerk.
hope he didn’t jump though…"
I was in turn called a jerk. And that's fine. It's just the way I feel. I'm not saying I don't feel compassion for the guy, because I do. At the same time though, I feel for the people of my neighborhood. People who were left feeling fear and anticipation. People who lost wages because they couldn't get to work. The police and fire workers who dealt with the situation for seven long, arduous hours. Who wins when one person opts to selfishly cry out for help?
It's a cold, lonely world sometimes.