I’ve come to notice that your most memorable days in life, whether they’re good or bad, always start out as the most unsuspecting. They happen to be the one day of that week that you’re not thinking about what direction your life is going to go in or what you have to do later or whether or not you should be doing something else, instead you’re completely focused on the present moment and oblivious to the curve ball that life is about to throw your way.
April 21 started out for me just like any other day. I was heading to class to take a test, well-rested because my morning class had been cancelled, so I had ample time to get ready and get a few extra minutes of studying in. The weather was gorgeous, spring in New England can be temperamental, so I’ve learned to appreciate the warm, sunny days as they come.
I was driving to class, windows down, sun roof rolled back and “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” was playing loud enough that I’m sure the car behind me could hear it. To get to school, I had to go over the Mt. Hope Bridge, which connects Bristol, RI to Portsmouth, RI, a few towns over from where Salve Regina University is.
There was no one in front of my car as I was driving over the bridge. I was dancing and singing along to the music as I usually do when I’m in the car. I was actually reflecting on how wonderful of a day it was outside and even though I had a huge test for my marketing class and a shift at work later in the day.
I was halfway over the bridge when I noticed a car stopped on the bridge. The car was on the other side of the bridge, parked in the northbound lane and I was heading southbound. Even though its unusual to see a car parked on a bridge I didn’t think much of it, car trouble was my first guess. As I continued getting closer to the parked car, a man got out of it, and walked toward his now popped trunk. Definitely car trouble, I thought. The second chorus of “I Took A Pill in Ibiza” was playing and I continued singing along, “But you don’t really wanna be high like me , never really knowing why like me….” when the unsuspecting man with car trouble ran in front of my car, placed his foot on the fencing around the bridge tower and threw himself over. Head first. No hesitation, no second thoughts.
Before I tell you what went through my head moments after witnessing that, I want explain how much of “denial” I was really in about this whole situation. Maybe denial isn’t the best word for it, because it wasn’t the type of denial that comes after grief, it was the type of denial that occurs when the absolute last thing you expect to happen, happens. Even as this man ran in front of my car, the thought that he could be, you know, just looking at the water, ran through my head. Instead, the worst I could think of happened. As I sit here and write this, the memory replays vividly in my head and I don’t know if it will ever fade.
Once I realized what had just happened I slammed on my breaks and I think I might have had a panic attack. I remember it being hard to breathe, my heart was pounding in my chest and I could hear my blood rushing in my ears. My hands were shaking uncontrollably and I barely was able to dial the one number I needed to call. Dylon. I had to call my boyfriend. I needed something to ground me. I needed something I didn’t know what, but I thought he could give it to me.
I don’t remember the phone call well. Those first few moments were kind of a blur. Here I was parked on a bridge (maybe I wasn’t in park, I could’ve been holding my foot on the brake) and I just needed him to tell me what I should do. This is ironic because Dylon was at work, he was in another state and there was absolutely nothing he could have done for me at that present moment.
I know he told me I had to call 911. I mean obviously that should have been my first call, right? The people in the car behind me were walking around, on their phones, clearly trying to get in touch with police or the Coast Guard. Yet here I was, sitting in my car, on the phone with my boyfriend who couldn’t offer me anything other than kind words and sympathy, which is all anyone would have been able to offer me.
I am sure there’s a slew of psychological reasoning for my reaction. Obviously it was a traumatic event, I was clearly having a panic/anxiety attack of some sort. Yet in the whole realm of people I could have called, my mom, my dad, my sister, my best friend, I knew no one would bring me back to some sort of reality like he would.
That’s how its supposed to be though right? You go through something horrible and your significant other is the one to provide some sort of anchor to reality. He or she should be the one who keeps it all together for you when everything around you doesn’t make sense.
I know I was in shock, so my first instinct to call Dylon, was clearly a reaction to that, but I’m not one to lose my shit in a crisis. I can usually get a handle on things and react in a way that helps improve the situation. I guess in this instance I was subconsciously aware there was nothing I could have done for this man. Maybe for me, calling Dylon was a way to verbalize and attempt to make sense of what I had seen, even if today I still don’t know exactly what I witnessed.
Dylon wasn’t there to see what I saw, but I know he was just as affected, if not because of how horrible the situation was then because he was witnessing it in his mind. That’s what the people we love do for us, they bear our traumas and our burdens. They feel those emotions alongside us, so we’re not left alone with our thoughts.
I never really found out what happened to that man on the bridge or what drove him to do what he did. I don’t know if I ever really want to know. Every time I drive over that bridge (almost daily) my thoughts drift to him and his pain and I hope that he’s found his peace with the demons that drove him to end his life. I wish there was something I could have done for him, whether it be a kind word or peace of mind, but unfortunately that was not how fate laid out its plans for me. I also don’t want to glorify my trauma, when his was clearly so much worse. Instead, I have to be grateful for the love and joy I have in my life that keeps me grounded and always is there with unwavering support.
To the unsuspecting man on the bridge, please rest in peace, you will not be forgotten.