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September 19, 2008

Choose people, not barriers



Consider this:

If one goes to any state or national park in the USA (take Muir Woods as an example), one encounters friendly and informed park service personnel who are on site to give directions, give tours, answer questions, and even be handed a camera to snap photos of the visitors who want pictures to take home for remembrance.

For the 48 to 50 million dollars that it would cost to create a physical barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge, why not better spend money creating a new job description? During hours when the bridge is open to pedestrians, have two or three people, dressed in easily recognized uniforms, walking the walkway, being friendly and informed ambassadors for the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco. As part of their job, they would also be well-trained in spotting a potential suicide and well-versed in dealing with the possible crisis. I believe that if such personnel were on the bridge (and imagine… had been on the bridge for the past 10 or 20 years), and everyone knew that such personnel were present, potential suicides would have second thoughts about using the bridge as an easy access for their tragic way of ending their own life.

Suicide is a terrible event that cannot be taken back once it has occurred. The familyand friends who lose a loved one to suicide never get over their horrible loss.

But building a suicide barrier is another type of terrible event that will not be able to be turned back once it’s up. The enormous “only in San Francisco” experience — that is, the experience of the amazing unfettered freedom of “walking the Golden Gate” —  is too much to lose. The sacrifice is too great. It too would be the unbearable loss of a loved one.

Find another way to solve this dilemma. Consider some friendly faces in uniforms who would be there to help everyone.

For more photos of the Golden Gate Bridge by Ron Henggeler, go to http://www.ronhenggeler.com.

           — Copyright Ron Henggeler 2008