Thursday, September 30, 2010

Suicide Fences, GW Bridge, Yes and No

With the suicide jumps of Tyler Clementi (9/22/2010) and Joseph Cerniglia (9/24/2010), the attractiveness of the George Washington Bridge as a departure point has been spotlighted. The lack of much of a barrier to jumping makes the completion of the task easy work. Too easy.

The GWB carries 14 lanes (8 upper level, 6 lower) of traffic between Fort Lee, NJ and Manhattan, NYC. It was opened in 1931. Its towers rise 604 feet above the Hudson River, its upper level roadway, at its highest point, is 212 feet from the water's surface. Almost all jumper's die, although it is possible to survive.

Adrian Rawn

did so in 2009. He effortlessly went over the side and remarkably swam over to the NJ shoreline. Perhaps his experience at the Naval Academy in water polo and swimming exempted him from death.


was the Rutgers freshman, who suffered invasion of his privacy by his room mate, Dharun Ravi. A hidden spycam recorded Clementi and a male lover. The "broadcast" was distributed online by Ravi and Molly Wei. Clementi's outing, embarrassment and humiliation appeared to have worked in concert in precipitating his suicide. Ravi and Wei have been charged with privacy invasion. They could be sent to jail for 5 years. No mention of murder charges...yet.

Cerniglia was a chef of some accomplishment. He competed in reality cooking shows.

In 2007, Gordon Ramsey, a Kitchen Nightmares presenter lambasted the decedent with, "Why did you decide to go into business if you haven’t got a clue how to run a business?" The British chef prophetically added that his (Cerniglia's) business was "about to ****ing swim down the Hudson". Cerniglia was having business, family and marital issues prior to his suicide.

It appears that 10 or so people opt to commit suicide off of the GWB annually. It seems as if that number of 10 is low. No doubt the GWB represents an "attractive" option for suicide minded individuals. Is it time to reduce the opportunity of easy jumping by adding suicide fences to the sides of the bridge? An example of these fences can be seen on the Bourne Bridge.

The Bourne joins Cape Cod with mainland Massachusetts, spanning the Cape Cod Canal. These suicide fences extend up about 10 feet with an inward upward curve, making scaling them near impossible.

The fencing would surely limit the unbelievable views of the Hudson, Manhattan, the Palisades and the surrounding landscape. It would be costly and its benefits may be de minimis, in reality. Moreover, it is unclear whether fencing the GWB would reduce the self inflicted death toll. Wouldn't those with self destructive ideation merely seek out another alternative? Can the suicide minded really be deterred by fencing a bridge side? Considering that only about 3% of suicides are carried out publicly, fencing the GWB would have negligible impact on the total number of suicides.

Sadly, there is no easy answer. If only suicide were like the flu, people could be vaccinated. If only suicide answered more questions than it raised. If only suicide made sense to the survivors. If only suicide weren't so selfish. If only, if only...

E cosi va

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