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December 12, 1986 

MARIN VOICE

If suicide barriers are “ugly,” Suicides are uglier
J. Michael Mahoney


D
EAR IJ:
It is very gratifying to see that at least one of the Bay Area’s media has finally awakened from a very long slumber to take note of the appalling situation that has been allowed to go for some 60 years on the Golden Gate Bridge.  I’m talking about the terrible epidemic of sui­cides over its 3’/2-foot-high railings, now totaling well in excess of 1,200 people (IJ, Dec. 3).  We now have in place, after 59 years, a minuscule scooter patrol, which has proved somewhat successful in stemming the tide of suicides off the bridge. But that’s only a temporary solution. The ultimate solution is a fixed suicide barrier. To prove my point, 12 persons have committed suicide by plunging off the bridge in spite of the scooter patrol.

     The IJ is perfectly justified in its criticism of the Golden Gate Bridge board for having allowed this unnec­essary slaughter to go on for so long without having taken, until now, positive steps to stop it.  But equally to blame are the IJ and all other Area newspapers and media. The media in this country has an overriding responsibility to monitor the actions of our public officials and to campaign against negligence or malfeasance when they see it.  Even so, the media  has been strangely silent until now with regard to the bridge. They have treated the bridge board as if it were some kind of

…12 person have recently committed 8uicide 
off the bridge IN SPITE of the Scooter patrol.


Protest:  Some say that Golden Gate Bridge suicides can be curtailed, if not eliminated.

   
Sacrosanct entity, and the board has acted accord­ingly, with arrogance and callowness, at least with regard to the suicide problem. We seem to have forgotten that the more than 1,200 people who have killed themselves for lack of a suicide barrier on the bridge are not aliens from outer space. They are our fathers and mothers, wives and husbands, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.  Just recently, the San Francisco Chronicle editorialized about the new scooter patrol on the bridge, saying it’s preferable to some kind of “ugly” suicide barrier. To me, any device that would have prevented the more than 1,200 (and counting) bridge suicides would have to be the most beautiful structure imaginable!  What a perverse and narcissistic sense of aesthetics someone must have to say that such a   
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To me, any device that would have prevented the more than 1,200 (and counting) bridge suicides would have to be the most beautiful structure imaginable! 
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  structure   be "ugly" and thus we shouldn't construct one -not even taking into account the reality that such a structure could be architecturally formed to be extremely attractive, almost like a piece of modern art.
But, over the years, the bridge board and media seem to have chosen "aesthetics" over human lives.

     Both should hang their heads in shame at the horrible consequences ensuing from this incredible attitude.  Thus, as mentioned, it's indeed heartening to see the IJ finally getting angry at the bridge board, but some of that anger should also be directed at itself and other Bay Area members of the fourth estate, as well as the broadcast media.  If these entities had raised their collective voices in anger and dismay against the bridge board early on, the board would have been forced to listen and take action, like it or not... In any event, better late than never.   Now, all that remains is how many more years must pass and how many more lives will be lost before an adequate suicide barrier is finally erected, putting an end to the horrific slaughter of innocent beings once and for all...

Michael Mahoney is a Larkspur philanthropist

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