Every day lots of people cross the Duke Ellington Bridge between Adams Morgan and Woodley Park. My husband, for example, has done so basically every day of his life for the past 11 years. It wasn’t until Saturday, though, that he saw someone try to jump off.
While walking to the Marriott Wardman Park to Twitter, blog, and otherwise write about all of Saturday’s excitement, he watched someone yank his car to a stop right in the middle of the bridge. That’s odd, he said (paraphrasing here. I was in bed), and then he watched the driver sprint to the opposite side of the bridge and forcibly grab hold of another man’s leg. Shortly thereafter another man grabbed his other leg and the first man yelled: “Someone call 911.” Which my husband did. The dispatcher (paraphrasing again) said, “Well, do you have him?” They did; the samaritans said they needed no more samaritans, just the cops.
The incident reminded me of “Jumpers,” a story that ran a few years back in the New Yorker and describes what happens when a jumper jumps, in this case off the Golden Gate Bridge:
In the four-second fall from the bridge, survivors say, time does seem to slow. On her way down in 1979, Ann McGuire said to herself, “I must be about to hit,” three times. But the impact is not clean: the coroner’s usual verdict, suicide caused by “multiple blunt-force injuries,” euphemizes the devastation. Many people don’t look down first, and so those who jump from the north end of the bridge hit the land instead of the water they saw farther out. Jumpers who hit the water do so at about seventy-five miles an hour and with a force of fifteen thousand pounds per square inch. Eighty-five per cent of them suffer broken ribs, which rip inward and tear through the spleen, the lungs, and the heart. Vertebrae snap, and the liver often ruptures. “It’s as if someone took an eggbeater to the organs of the body and ground everything up,” Ron Wilton, a Coast Guard officer, once observed.
The Ellington bridge is one of the few “suicide bridges” in the country that has barriers designed specifically to prevent the eggbeater treatment of a person’s organs. In this case, I think it worked.