Local residents call it Suicide Bridge. I reckon it’s because more and more mixed-up lost souls are jumpin’ off the bridge every year into the shallow Rocky River below.
Ironically, the city elders envisioned Veterans Memorial Bridge to be a LIFEline when construction started ‘bout 77 years ago. After the bridge was done, the city grew quickly on both sides of the river.
At the base of the bridge on both ends, they built two parks. The parks are linked by wide sidewalks over the bridge, where folks can walk or bike between both halves of the city. Cars’n trucks are restricted to the center of the bridge with one lane in both directions. Veterans Memorial Bridge is the official symbol of the city, because it draws tourists from all over the world.
Tom—my boss and a real-good friend—and I recently visited Veterans Memorial Bridge to celebrate its 75th Birthday on Memorial Day.
A whole bunch of VIPs were there and gave fancy, historical speeches. We watched our kids race from one end of the bridge to the other. Later, we saw the fireworks boomin’ over the Rocky River.
After I said goodnight to Tom and headed home with my family, I had a horrible nightmare.
It was night time. Instantly, I was teeterin’ up on the ‘suicide side’ of the bridge, clingin’ to one of the huge steel support beams. I was holdin’ on to a sliver of hope with one hand, and reachin’ for eternity with the other. Light from a half-moon glittered on Rocky River, reflectin’ like a strobe light into my eyes. Stars twinkled happily above, mockin’ my unhappy condition. I felt so empty, so helpless—so hopeless. It would be so easy just to let go,
just let go,
“Josh—Josh! Wake up, wake up. You’re havin’ a nightmare.” My wife woke me up.
I noticed my back was soakin’ wet with sweat, while I told her what I just dreamt.
“God’s tryin’ to tell you somethin’.”
The weekend after Memorial Day my family rode a plush tour-bus and visited several famous bridges throughout the United States. Finally, on one of the last stops--which happened to be Suicide Bridge--the bus driver slowed down because of an unexpected traffic jam.
“Let me out! I need to talk to that man.” I jumped off the bus and got as close as I could before police officers stopped me.
“Stay back—Stay back!”
“It looks like he’s gonna jump!”
A man in his thirties, scared outta-his-mind, clung to one of the iron support beams on the bridge. He was yellin’ somethin’, over and over.
“I can’t stand it any more! She hates me! She left me. I’m not good enough. She hates me!”
Desperately, I asked the officers, “Do somethin’. He’s gonna jump!” Suddenly the thought came to me that if he was gonna jump – he would’ve done it already.
He was holdin’ back.
He’s holdin’ on to a sliver of hope with one hand, and reachin’ for eternity with the other.
I looked back to up to the man on the bridge and with horror I realized it was—Tom.
“TOM!” I rushed toward him, but the officers held me back.
“Wha???” Tom was distracted from jumpin’, looked my way and slumped over. Two firemen grabbed and saved him.
The next summer we held our Annual Church Picnic at Veterans Memorial Park at the south end of the bridge. Tom and his entire family were there.
“Hey Josh—whaddya want me to grill for you?”
“I dunno, Tom. Whaddya got?”
Tom joked, almost singin’, “Brats and hotdogs, brats and burgers. Did I say bratwurst?”
“You seem to be in a good mood today!?”
“Yes sir—I have MUCH to be thankful for.” Tom answered, suddenly gettin’ serious.
“So much has happened in the past year—“
“Yes-sir, after God saved me on the bridge, He saved my marriage, and my family.”
“Thank God, brother.”
“I thank God for YOU, brother, every day.”
My youngest daughter ran up to me, pointin’ up to Suicide Bridge, “LOOK! Look up at the bridge!”
Sure enough, someone was hangin’ by one hand from the bridge.
It was an eerie, déjà vu moment.
Immediately, Tom dropped his grill tools and ripped off his “#1 DAD” apron as he sprinted toward the bridge. Just as he reached the sidewalk, he spun around and threw up his hands.
The man leaped off the bridge on a bungee cord.
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