White Sock with Red Stripe
Sept. 4, 2015
At approximately 9am today and unidentified male threw a suitcase off the rail of the Pedestrian Bridge which crosses over to the airport onto North Broadway and into the traffic below. He followed his suitcase over the rail and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Is that how it happened?
You saw the guy jump? Jessi, 30-year-old rent-a-car employee -- looks incredulously at the car wash employee from behind the Hertz counter.
I saw something. Out of the corner of my eye and when I looked it was like all over. Cop cars everywhere. He answers.
Did you see his suitcase? How do you know he threw his suitcase down. Jess was already verbally rehearsing the details that she would share. On facebook. With her mom. Her dad. Her boyfriend.
It was her mom – which would be me -- that might ask the color of the suitcase.
Does it matter what color the suitcase was? Why does it matter? It doesn’t. She had her phone out and was already talking to me, sharing the details, what she heard the carwash guy had seen
And I do want to know the color of the suitcase, even though it doesn’t matter or have any bearing on the outcome of the story of the man who jumped, it does matter to the story that I am writing right now. I would also want to know how or if it opened on impact and if when he jumped he tried to avoid landing on the suitcase or if the clothes that splayed all over the sidewalk, an errant sock becoming airborn and perhaps lost in the shuffle of paramedics and police and reporters who actually know the color of the suitcase but forget, already, when they get back to their computers and their four and a half dollar Chai Latte’s behind a desk that was just not equipped to handle one more suicide file or for that matter even another drug bust or parking ticket or . . .
I might even want to know the make of the suitcase and if they did similar tests on the suitcase from even higher elevations and if that particular make and model of the suitcase passed all those tests without opening but perhaps after all the wear and tear on the large metal clasps and buckles the suitcase could no longer pass the being thrown from high elevation tests. I would like to know if it sprung open and bounced or just flopped and sprung open and the direction which the clothes flew and if he had landed on his clothes would it have made a difference on his surviving or not. This, I think, would be easier than knowing how the young man himself landed when he hit the pavement 100 feet below. It would be easier.
Actually, I do know how he landed. Second hand, anyway. Or perhaps it was third hand – again, details detail details handed down from car wash guy to daughter to me. I do not know how his body may have reacted –the bruising on bones and muscles and the shock of skin on pavement and the organs shutting down and collapsing onto or into each other -- but I do know how he flew through the air and how he faced after the fall, and how he remained facing when he was lifted onto the gurney by the waiting ambulance crew. My daughter told me how. She told me that he landed facing the other way off the bridge as if he had turned in the air, a complete somersault that may have had an air of beauty and grace if you had been looking east at the exact time of the jump. The sun would have been directly behind him just above the taller and newer airport nearing completion and the older airport . The glint of that sun off the silver bumpers of the hundreds of white oversized pickups that filled the airport parking lot would have been dazzling – and the jumper silhouetted arms out, splayed crucifixion style, turning gravity defying slow in that final death fall. A moment frozen in time with just the shadow of an airplane in the distant background – making that final circle prior to disembarkation – as he also makes his final circle through that still morning air.
But-the poetics of death withstanding -- more than anything I want to know about the unidentified young man who jumped the morning of Sept. 4, 2015 and ended his life less than ¼ mile from his flight home.
Where was he going?
What leads a man to jump that close to a security gate?
Why would he have his suitcase with him if he was planning to jump beforehand?
If it had been raining and he had taken a taxi instead would he still be alive or would he have walked from the airport the ¼ mile to the pedestrian bridge in the rain with his suitcase and jumped anyway?
I want to know these things as if he were my own son committing suicide on one of the most beautiful summer mornings of the year.
Below the pedestrian bridge is a walking path. This is one of my favorite loops and although I did not run that loop the morning that this man took his life I am imagining my next run on this lovely loop—what makes it so lovely? Well, this is the downhill side of the loop and the bridge is really quite beautiful. And so, if you can imagine, running easy down an incline off to the side of a main thoroughfare with little sapplings of trees growing bigger and stronger every year and a beautiful walking bridge high above that leads not only to an airport but also to half a dozen softball diamonds . . .
Perhaps next spring after the first snow melt and I venture out on this loop there might be a new object alongside the trail – something that was maybe missed in the cleanup of one man’s life –it might be a plain white sock with a thin red stripe along the toe line. It might look like a quality sock, worse for wear, but thick, the kind of sock that a man would need to protect his feet inside heavy brown suede or black leather work boots; the kind of sock that a man runs right out to purchase at home of economy – or maybe the first pair of socks that a man purchases when he leaves his parent’s home and has to find his own way through the once untraversed sock and underwear aisle. Or perhaps, it is a pair of socks that a wife packs for her husband when he leaves his home to find oil wealth in Williston – wistfully, while thinking about when he returns to bring her back – a place to be together, where the bills get paid and a home isn’t such a farfetched stretch of a notion. Maybe. But I can tell, that It isn’t the kind of sock to protect a man from a 100 foot fall from a pedestrian bridge onto North Broadway. For that, I think, he would need something more. Much more. I only wish I knew what.