Today, as I was driving over the Tyne bridge I watched a woman slowly climb over the barrier. It was all in slow motion for me. Surely she was a workman – not a woman? I must be mistaken. There were no harnesses, no safety rope and with horror and panic I realised she was about to jump to her death.
I stopped my car and ran over to her with no idea what I would say or do. By this time she was on the other side of the barrier and barely holding on with one uncertain hand. Why was I the only person to have stopped? The traffic continued to crawl past and with a desperate realisation it became clear that what I did next would determine whether she lived or died.
At first I tried what we see so often in movies. I spoke calmly and tried to get close to her. She was shaking her head and moved as though she’d let herself fall at any moment. I became desperate and begged her not to do this. ‘Please love, wait. Wait a minute. Just one minute. Please.’
More than anything I’ve ever wanted in my life I didn’t want her to die. Not here. Not now.
A big fella from the post office appeared next to me. He’d stopped his van in front of my car and looked like he’d done this before. He walked boldly up to her and started nonchalently talking to her – making no attempt to grab the single hand that was stopping her from falling. I stepped back, relieved that this was no longer my sole responsibility – yet terrified that she’d die.
By now there was a couple of women also on the pavement with us. I asked if they had called the police and they confirmed they had. But where were they? I felt as though I’d been there for such a long time.. and then the big guy stepped back from her turned to me and said ‘She’s going to jump. If I grab her head will you get her arm?’
I said I would – what choice did I have? .. we both moved close to her again and I felt desperate. Could we really grab her before she saw what we were doing? Could we hold her when there was barely any part of her body to grab on to? Could we prevent this poor woman from ending her life when she so clearly wanted it to end?
Where were the police? I just wanted the police to arrive. They save lives. I’ve seen it on TV. I think the big guy may have said ‘Now!’ I’m not sure. We were holding her. He had a shoulder and I had an arm and holding onto her with such determination and fear. She was crying. Saying ‘No, no, no,’. She wanted to die. Right there. Right now.
Other people appeared and tried to hold any part of her they could reach over the barrier. But she was struggling. I said ‘Can we lift her over?’ and she cried and cried.
I said ‘On three?’
But there was no three. In a moment of near violence we’d dragged her over the edge and she was safe. Safe from dying today at least.
I realised a police woman was standing next to me and she put a handcuff on the wrist of the arm I was holding.. and then the other. This woman who so much wanted her life to end was being held by each of us and all I wanted to do was hold her tightly and tell her everything was going to be alright – even though I guess we all knew, everything was far from alright.
More police appeared and a van. They put her in the van and I gave the police my details and it was over.
I was standing on the bridge. Just standing. Feeling like my heart would burst out of my chest. I couldn’t breathe.
One of the women who’d been with us approached me. She put her hand on my arm and asked ‘Are you ok?
‘Am fine’ I said ‘I’m always fine.’
She said ‘You saved a life today.’
I saved a life today.
I was shaking. I drove home and as I closed the door of my home behind me I realised I had huge rolling tears running down my cheeks. Tears for the lass who wanted to die today.
So people, if you’re with someone now, at this moment, who cares about you, then take a moment.
Take a moment.