It's not common practice for most news organizations to report suicides, unless it involves a celebrity or well-known figure. But in this day and age, almost nothing goes unreported -- especially not a suicide jumper in the middle of the day in a busy metropolis.
That's the case in San Francisco, where a man stepped out onto the ledge of downtown building from a loft apartment above the Forever 21 clothing Tuesday afternoon and took one last step. A large crowd gathered and watched as the man pondered then plunged to his death, we learned from the SF Examiner.
But the crowd watching from the ground is not the most disturbing part of the story. Some of them even took pictures and video then posted them online. Word of the incident was broadcast live -- 140 characters at a time, on Twitter. Yes, also disturbing, but almost expected in these days of cell phone cameras and always-on Internet access in hand.
The most unsettling aspect of this sad story is the reported reaction from the ground. Many of the bystanders cheered and urged him to take the plunge, even laughed when he did. Less than a minute later, paramedics declared the man dead.
A string of comments from Twitter, Facebook and Yelp reflects the variety of reactions. Most of the commenters wrote that they were upset not only by the incident, but also by the reaction from the excited onlookers.
Nick Fisher snapped a clear picture of the man on the ledge and posted it to Flickr. He says he plans to use the footage for a documentary about suicide prevention with Oakland's Mooncricket Films and explained his motive in a comment reposted by the Scavenger:
I debated for the rest of the day on whether to post this at all. But I feel that it shouldn't go unnoticed. It should be reminder to everyone, including myself, that we need to be more considerate and aware of the suffering of our fellow humans. That maybe, if one person had screamed "don't do it!" this man would be alive right now.
The filmmaker with Mooncricket posted a cropped version of the picture and explained in his Twitter feed that they won't post the video of the man's fatal jump. He also gave a very clear reason for documenting the incident.
Some people are confused about why I have this photo posted. It is better to show him alive and he is standing there. I want people to see this image and think about what he could be thinking. He stood for 50 minutes or so and I watched him look around as if he was waiting for some positive message for help. He didn't jump until after the crowd was big and after shouts from negative people telling him to jump. The cops stood their silent and people were laughing. Look at the picture and that is what he saw. So by remembering this image next time you see someone standing on a ledge or even thinking about taking their own life then please talk to them. Let them know you are their for them and ask them what do they need. Show them love even if it is a stranger.
Photo by Nick Fisher.