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Surprising to Knowlton was how down in the dumps he became in the aftermath of his good deed. “It took me a good two or three days to get over some depression. You think you wouldn’t be depressed, but I kept playing everything over again in my mind, and it was working me down and down to a point that I couldn’t even talk about it. But, finally, it’s starting to feel a little better. At least I saved someone’s life, and I should feel good about it. It took a few days for that to sink in. And I just hope that what the lady went through was just a cry for help that she’s over now.”

Knowlton has conflicting thoughts about nobody stopping to help as he talked to the woman on the bridge, whose name has not been released. “When she wasn’t looking, I signaled people driving by to help, and I’m sure lots of people called the police,” he tells me, “but it is surprising that nobody got out to help. I mean, why was there this big-ass bottle of wine sitting on the hood of her car and she was swigging at it like she wanted to get trashed?

“I think only a small percentage of people will get involved in something like that. If the lady had panicked and jumped when I was first walking up to her, that would have changed my life forever. And maybe other people driving by were afraid of the same thing. After a few days had passed, I talked to a number of my friends who said they’d have been reluctant to get involved, too. So I’ve eased up on my judgment of the way most people react.”

How high are the odds that ordinary citizens will ever witness someone try to jump from the Coronado Bay Bridge — or any other suicide attempt? As of May 1, 2008, according to a Voice of San Diego article from the same date, there had been 233 suicides from the bridge. Ashley Hatton posted a comment to the article, asking people to contact her “if you have witnessed a stranger’s suicide and are willing to share your experience.” Hatton is a candidate for the doctorate of psychology at the California School of Professional Psychology. I reached her by phone in Massachusetts.

“I put a similar request for information on Craigslist,” she told me, “and I got about 30 people to respond with their stories.” (Hatton is incorporating the anecdotes into her dissertation, which in large part is an effort to shine light on what people experience who witness suicides.) “So that tells me that witnessing suicides might happen more often than we think,” she said.

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Comments

etacm June 1, 2011 @ 7:01 p.m.

Sadly, I think there are a lot of reasons others didn't stop that day. I happen to know two people who got into trouble with the police for stopping to pick up a confused military man who had tried to walk across the bridge, only to realize that the shoulder disappears only a few hundred feet onto the bridge. People are constantly told not to put themselves in danger, especially when alcohol and suicide is involved. Everyone I have ever heard talk about these situations asks that onlookers contact authorities, and do not get themselves involved. This man was certainly brave, and heroic, but it cannot be expected for others to go against what they are taught in this situation.

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FatCatSegat June 1, 2011 @ 7:19 p.m.

Doing the right thing is simply the quite obviously unique ability to shine as a human being under dire circumstances. Mr Knowlton is a brilliant example of not wasting any time on nonsense. He acted! Damn the torpedoes! He did the right thing and deserves to be recognized.

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clearsynergy June 1, 2011 @ 9:47 p.m.

I just read a magazine article (sorry I don't have the reference) that if you encounter someone attempting suicide, the best thing is to ask them to help you with something YOU need. The claim of the article is that almost everyone who is trying to commit suicide will respond to another person's need, and that will distract them from their own intention to depart. I thought that was a pretty interesting idea.

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r1man June 3, 2011 @ 8:34 a.m.

This artical reminds me of a story my father once told me. My Dad used to ride his motorcycle to work at North Island. On one such trip over the bridge to get work the traffic was backed up so he made his way though on the motorcycle. One of the bueatys of motorcycles. Then at some point he came upon a car parked on the side. Dad said he saw someone "hanging" over the side. All he cuold see was the mans hands and eyes. They made eye contact and the man let go. Dad stopped the bike and went to side of the bridge to look. Nothing. He couldn't see any signs of the man who he had just made eye contact with.

My father, a Vietnam vet, said it creeped him out pretty bad. Dad said it was wierd knowing he was the last person the poor guy saw before ending his life.

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Geraldwb777 June 5, 2011 @ 9:17 p.m.

Bryan Knowlton is a Hero, in the truest sense of the word. The same thing happen to me on a morning in July 1996, with a couple who wanting to jump of the bridge as I drove to work on North Island. What surprised me was that as I was talking with the couple, there were people driving by shouting "Jump" I was able to talk the woman down, but, like Mr. Knowlton, I had to fight with the man once I was able to grab him and pull him down to the ground. I often wonder what happen to that couple. I salute Mr. Knowlton.

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Submariner June 15, 2011 @ 12:17 a.m.

For the record, there's no such thing as the "Coronado Bay Bridge," just as there's no Coronado Bay. It's the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, stretching over San Diego Bay to link the two cities in its name. Just sayin' ...

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