Why I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge through biting cold and fog
Suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge
I stepped onto the Golden Gate Bridge’s abutment on the southeast end, next to the Bridge Plaza or Welcome Center. Located on S. Highway 101, the Golden Gate Bridge connects the bustling city of San Francisco, California to counties on the northern end including Marin County. A blast of biting cold wind coming from the 3-mile long Golden Gate Strait below suddenly beat against me like a fist. I pulled my thin black wool coat tighter around me. It didn’t help. The scores of cars zooming by only intensified the chilling wind seemingly gnawing at me.
Having lived in the ‘sandpit’, as we fondly called Dubai, for the past 10 years sure didn’t prepare me for San Francisco’s chilly winter. To think that winter was just beginning. I looked in front of me and could barely make out the bridge’s soaring 746-foot tall towers and gaping main cables, already swathed in thick white clouds. Thick fog has suddenly enveloped the bridge. The thought of crossing the 1.7-mile long bridge through the cold and heavy fog almost made me turn back. But then I remembered why I was there. I took a decisive step forward, each succeeding step accompanied by a prayer.
Alcatraz Island, a notorious federal penitentiary, is barely visible in the distance (on my left).
The Bridge Plaza
You see, although the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the world’s iconic landmarks, its ‘golden’ or shall I say ‘orangish’ splendor, belie a dark and harrowing secret. Well, it’s not necessarily a secret for some do know about it. But not every one and this is the reason why I am writing this to raise awareness of it. In August of 1937, only three months after the bridge opened to vehicles on May 28, 1937, Harold Wobber, a World War I veteran, jumped off the bridge to his death. Wobber would be the first of thousands to use the bridge as a suicide platform.
By 2013, around 1,600 individuals, children and adults alike, have leapt to their deaths from the bridge. But some experts believe the death toll must equate to at least 2,000, including unaccounted ones. Soon the bridge earned the moniker ‘Suicide Bridge’. Since Wobber’s plunge, the bridge saw an average of 30 jumps per year, 98% of which was almost always fatal. Foreigners and locals alike flocked to the bridge as its notoriety spread among those with suicidal tendencies.
But a few miraculously survived including Kevin Hines who suffered from a bipolar disorder. In September of 2000, Kevin, who was in high school then, went to the bridge prepared to die. But as he reached the bridge, he hesitated. Looking for someone, just anyone who cared, he dragged his feet along the bridge, with tears streaming down his face. He hoped that someone would show compassion to him, just one soul and he would not jump. But no one bothered to stop, no one bothered to ask why he was crying.
Until a good-looking young woman stopped him in his tracks. Kevin thought he found his savior. Until the woman perfunctorily gave Kevin her camera and asked him to take her photo. That was the last thing Kevin needed. After taking the apathetic lady’s photo, Kevin jumped off the bridge. But as he fell, he realized his grave mistake and prayed to God to save him. He hit the water feet first and survived. But he broke his back and was handicapped. He was forever scarred and shattered by the horrifying trauma.
For those who think jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge is a peaceful way to die, this is an egregious lie. The Golden Gate Strait’s currents range from 4.5 to 7.5 knots. Add to that, it is a 250-foot plunge from the bridge to the onerous water. Hitting the raging water is like watching a trolley shattering against a brick wall. Whoever jumps from the bridge is sure to face a violent and horrific death. Even if they survive, they will be physically damaged for life. Not to mention the mental and emotional anguish thereafter. So if you know of someone who’s planning to jump off the bridge, please stop them, by all means necessary.
Tell them to seek help. Or be the help they need. Or next time you visit the Golden Gate Bridge, look around you. Look for people like Kevin, deeply longing for affirmation, for validation. Let them know they are loved. That someone cares for them. Most of all, let them know that there is someone who cares for them more than any human on planet earth and that is Jesus Christ. Jesus died so we might live. And when you find yourself on the bridge, don’t just admire the view. Stop and pray while you walk. Pray for those who died but most especially remember those who are currently lost, confused, hurting and are planning to die there. Think of the grieving families; that the suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge would come to a grinding halt.
Despite its ominous background, the Golden Gate Bridge continues to attract 10 million visitors annually. For it truly is one engineering marvel, a soaring testament to men’s architectural ingenuity. Painted ‘orange vermilion’ not ‘golden’, its name actually reflects the Golden Gate Strait, the opening to the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. A reminder of a harbor in Istanbul called ‘Chrysoceras’ or Golden Horn, Captain John C. Fremont so named the Strait, Golden Gate.
If you go, be sure to visit the Bridge Plaza where you will find interactive displays showcasing the bridge’s history, fun facts and figures. Open daily from 9 am to 6 pm, the Welcome Center provides orientation and information services. There is a plethora of souvenirs for sale. There is also an exhibit of the original 12-foot stainless steel Bridge “test tower” that was used in 1933. If you’re a fridge magnet collector like me, be sure to buy your Golden Gate memento from the Visitor Center. Just like in Stonehenge and Giant’s Causeway, their intricate collections are only available within the Center.
You can either drive (note: very limited parking), hike, bike, run, jog, walk or simply sit and take in one of the Wonders of the Modern World. Despite myself and the reason for my crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, I actually found the experience exhilarating. And the view along the 1.7-mile Bridge was spectacular. Every now and then the fog lifted and I got to look down on the raging waters. The magnificent San Francisco skyline was suddenly visible in the distance to boot. Despite the biting cold, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge turned out to be so rewarding. I would highly encourage you to do it. To learn more about this historic and iconic bridge, visit the Golden Gate Bridge website.
Beautiful from the northern end. It truly was breathtaking although my photo does not do justice to it.
Epilogue: I am sad to share that as of writing construction of the suicide barriers on the Golden Gate has been stalled as setbacks arose. Bidding for the project has been delayed for months. Although the proposal has been put forward for the 8th time and was finally approved last June, 2014, the installation of such barriers is far from beginning. More prayers are needed. The installation of the suicide barrier is hoped to deter people from jumping off the Bridge. The project will not be completed until 2020 (previously scheduled for 2019). Pray for zero suicide on Golden Gate Bridge. Pray that God would touch the hearts of those contemplating suicide and that construction of the barriers would soon start. God answers prayers! Please like and share to raise awareness.
Why I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge through biting cold and fog