Bridge of Sighs

My post today isn’t about an architectural fantasy involving Antonio Contino’s bridge in Venice over the Rio di Palazzo, erected in the year 1600, connecting the Doge’s prisons with the inquisitor’s rooms of the main palace. Although it was Lord Byron who helped to popularize this belief by naming that water overpass, “Bridge of Sighs.”
 

Nor am I talking about a song with the same title written by a British guitarist in the mid 1970’s named Robin Trower.
 

Who?
 

Never mind.
 

No, I am talking about another world famous bridge that just celebrated 75 years of expansion over the San Francisco bay, the “Golden Gate” bridge. And it was just last weekend, on May 27th that the city celebrated with fireworks and crowning sun-bright sparkle enhancements.


 
Like a diamond set atop of the bridge’s own tower’s, it began flashing narrow beams of reflective light throughout the San Francisco Bay area in an installation matrimony of art and science—a project called Solar Beacon, all part of a yearlong celebration of the bridge.
 

Two sets of mirrors or heliostats sit on top of the bridge’s two 746 foot towers, two feet apart, swivel and tilt by motors directed by cellphone commands. They call this Art in Progress. “It’s never been done before and we don’t know what it’s going to look like,” said Mr. Vallerga, one of the volunteers.
 

Normally, they build this type of thing for astronomical spacecraft, including the ones bound for Pluto and Jupiter. That kind of work is very utilitarian and it’s not often appreciated for its artistic value. The idea started when Mr. Vallerga and his colleague Pat Jelinsky approached an artist-in-residence, Liliane Lijn at a space lab in London in 2005.
 

They wanted to build prism heliostats that would convert sunlight into refracted rainbow of colors that would beam from on top of a hill, like the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles or near the Griffith Observatory, but they were unable to drum up enough support. Thus the Golden Gate’s 75th Diamond Anniversary with a mountain ridge in France soon on the horizon.
 

So why the reference to the Golden Gate as a Bridge of Sighs?
 

Apparently the bridge is a public health hazard. Because it doesn’t have adequate safety barriers, it continues to be the world’s most popular suicide location. Since its opening on May 27, 1937, there have been an estimated 1,558 deaths by jumping. And that’s only counting those they’ve been able to recover. In other words, it’s estimated that every two and a half days someone tries to jump.
 

(Kevin Hines views an exhibit of 1,558 pairs of shoes during the celebration. The shoes represent known suicides that have jumped from the bridge. Hines, one of six people to survive a suicide attempt from the bridge, urges barriers be installed.)
 

The disquieting number of suicides speaks of a dark history surrounding this renowned public structure. With all its beauty and brilliance in engineering and construction, the question is asked, “How do we weigh its value against the reality of tragedy?”
 

Officials have voted to install a suicide deterrent to the bridge, but no money has been allotted. Then there are those who oppose a barrier because they think it will ruin the appearance of the bridge, yet the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Duomo in Florence, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and many other international landmarks have suicide barriers. But not the Golden Gate Bridge?
 

A happy anniversary to you Golden Gate Bridge!
 

Well, perhaps not. It is felt that only when the Golden Gate Bridge has a safety net will the day truly be worth celebrating. Until that time, it will continue to be thought of as a “Bridge of Sighs.”
 

So what do you think? Have you ever traveled to Venice, Italy and walked across the “Bridge of Sighs?” Have you taken a trip to the San Francisco area and driven across the “Golden Gate Bridge,” perhaps on a day trip to the wine country? Have you ever written a character that may have jumped off a bridge? Or taken a leap of faith?
 

Thank you everyone for dropping by and for all your wonderful comments!
Karen

 

36 thoughts on “Bridge of Sighs

  1. KM Huber

    The shoe photo is so powerful; seems it is a barrier all on its own. Maybe it has another role….

    My memories of crossing the Golden Gate are light, strong, full of promise and go back to 1976. Excellent post!

    Karen
    KM Huber recently posted..Back From Turtle RowMy Profile

    Reply
  2. Pat O'Dea Rosen

    Hi, Karen
    My tone would have turned dark, too, after seeing that photo of all those shoes. I’m with you in urging creation of a suicide-deterring barrier.

    My family drove over the GG bridge many years ago. It was a glorious experience.
    Pat O’Dea Rosen recently posted..MarleneMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Thanks for saying that Pat! I had no intention of writing in a dark undertone until I saw that shoe photo. Perhaps it was the wrong decision, but my conscience spoke to me Pat. How could I not include that information in the post. And your right. Driving over the Golden Gate is a glorious experience. Scary too if you don’t like bridges! Thank you Pat for sharing your thoughts! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Pingback: Covert Detox Operation Revealed + Fast Draft Countdown | Jenny Hansen's Blog

  4. Nigel Blackwell

    Dang, that is a lot of people. Two people a month? Barriers don’t have to “spoil the view.” It’s amazing what people value sometimes. The media fixates on someone spilling hot coffee and (nationally, at least) ignore this.

    On a brighter note I have been across the Bridge of Sighs … but not the one in Venice. I grew up near Oxford, UK, and there is a bridge between two university buildings called the Bridge of Sighs. I’m not sure how the view compares to Venice, but it’s a nice bridge.

    Cheers!

    Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Nigel! Yes, barriers would be a good thing! Actually, I hadn’t intended to make the story that bleak, but when I fumbled upon the picture of the shoes, well, it spoke to me. I just had to write about it. But may I thank you for bringing up a brighter subject! You know I just heard about this Bridge of Sighs in Oxford from Eden Mabee. I’ve been through Oxford, but missed the bridge. Or maybe I traveled over the bridge but didn’t know it was the Bridge of Sighs. Anyway, I think it qualifies as a nice bridge Nigel! Thank you for pointing it out and for visiting today! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Eden Mabee

    I’d walked along the Oxford version of the Bridge of Sighs once, but never the Golden Gate nor the Venetian bridge. So much history… So many stories that will never be known.

    I think all our characters should have to take a leap of faith of some kind. Perhaps not off a bridge nor even with the hope of death as release in the end… But that moment when there is no certain success must be there.

    Thanks for this post, Karen.

    And of course I had to go look up the Robin Trower song… 🙂
    Eden Mabee recently posted..When in ROWme Do as the ROWmans DoMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      You are so cool Eden! You’ve been to Oxford? I driven through Oxford, but didn’t have the time for a proper visit. I love the way you put it…”So many stories that will never be known.” How true! And thank you for mentioning our characters! How true! Our characters do need to take a leap of faith! Now tell me, what did you think of Robin Trower? Thanks Eden for sharing your thoughts! I really appreciate it! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Debra Kristi

    I used to visit the GG often as my Grandpa was stationed up there back when the base was open. I spent every summer there. Beautiful bridge. I drove over it last year, but I’ve never actually walked across it. I’ll have to do that next time.

    That shoe display is eye opening. So sad. I’m glad to hear they put the phones up along the walkway. Like Jenny said, a step in the right direction. Thanks for this post Karen.
    Debra Kristi recently posted..The Hell Lord, Mephisto – Immortal MondayMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Debra! What a wonderful experience for you as a child to be able to visit that beautiful city of San Francisco while spending time with your Grandpa! I know where that base was. It was nestled in amongst a lush area close to the bridge. You know I have never walked across it either Debra. But then, I’ve always been afraid of being creeped out. I agree with you and Jenny! Phones are a step in the right direction. I just hope they will put up another deterrant soon! Those shoes made the whole tragedy of suicide truly real. Thanks Debra as always for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts! Take care! 🙂

      Reply
  7. Jamie Luke

    “Golden gate” a famous bridge i know.But the sorrowfulness of this bridge is very harmful for peoples mind. People should not use golden gate to commit suicide.

    Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Jamie! Yes, I agree, the sorrowfulness of the Golden Gate bridge is harmful! Thank you for your comment and for stopping by! 🙂

      Reply
  8. Anthony V. Toscano

    Karen,

    First of all, this article of yours is written with style, grace and compassion. It should be printed in a magazine, a glossy one that will grant you fame in California.

    I remember the first time I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. I had been attending a boring professional conference downtown. In the wee early hours of that morning, I sneaked away from the suits, the skirts, the sticky name badges and the lukewarm buffet breakfast.

    I must have crossed and recrossed the bridge ten times over. As the sun continued to rise, and the fog lifted, the color of the bridge changed from red to blue, to a silhouetted gray, and then to sunlit orange. Contrary to the sad mood many carry there to toss away, I felt my spirits lifting.

    I did not, by the way, spoil my happy frame of mind by returning to attend the next Power Point-enhanced seminar. Instead, I packed my bags and headed for Carmel.

    I enjoyed this post. Thanks.
    Anthony V. Toscano recently posted..Prologue To A Book Never To Be WrittenMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Oh my goodness Anthony, wow, what a compliment! Thank you so much! And thank you for letting me know that you can see the compassion in my writing. I try to be a compassionate person. People matter to me, as they should to everyone. When I discovered through my research for the post how many have died from jumping off that magnificent structure when some of them could have been prevented, sickened me. And then of course the picture of Kevin Hines standing in front of those shoes with the bridge in the background was a powerful moment. I hope he didn’t mind. I plucked it off of his Facebook page. I’m a klepto! He, he, he. Anthony, I too would’ve headed for Carmel! I love the northern California coastline! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and for coming by!

      Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Laird! You know, when I first started writing this post, it was not my intention for its mood to become so dark and gloomy. But when I found the picture of one of the suicide survivors glancing over the shoes, it spoke to me. It changed the tone, but I felt it needed to be said. I tried to balance the sparkle of festivities with the undercurrent. Hopefully it wasn’t to depressing. Thanks Laird for your thoughful comment! 🙂

      Reply
  9. Tameri Etherton

    I’ve been to SF many times and each time I try to at least drive across the bridge. It reminds me of the Coronado Bridge here in San Diego with all the signs trying to prevent suicides. It’s such a tragedy that people feel that’s their only hope, but perhaps with barriers that will deter some of the less inclined. Those shoes absolutely are a graphic visual of all the lives (known) lost to suicide on the bridge. Yikes.

    Happy Anniversary to the bridge, but let’s hope next year the shoe count won’t rise!
    Tameri Etherton recently posted..Pain Meds Can Be FunnyMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Tameri! I ‘ve driven across the Coronado bridge many times. That’s another scary bridge if you ask me. Yes, let’s hope that next year the shoe count won’t rise! Here, here! It’s a shame because the Golden Gate Bridge is such a marvel of construction. It’s really a piece of art. The lights were designed designed with artdeco in mind. Let’s hope they install barriers to prevent other suicides! Thanks Tameri for your comment and for stopping by! 🙂

      Reply
  10. Reetta Raitanen

    Venice is a must place to visit. It is so sad that eventually the city will sink entirely 🙁

    Thank you for this deep and informative post. I had no idea that so many people jump the Golden Gate bridge. It’s insane that there aren’t safety barriers already, or money allotted to the project. The shoe exhibit is really sad and I hope it raises needed awareness on the issue.
    Reetta Raitanen recently posted..Link Feast For Writers, vol. 10My Profile

    Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Reetta! You’ve been to Venice? That’s very cool! It is weird to think that the entire city will sink someday. I’m with you Reetta! I too had no idea that so many people were jumping the bridge. It’s crazy! Hopefully the shoe exhibit helped to raise awareness to this important issue! Thanks Reetta for sharing your thoughts and for coming by! 🙂

      Reply
  11. CC MacKenzie

    Wow!

    No, I haven’t visited San Francisco or Venice – how did I miss them? But I have witnessed peeps bungie jumping off of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and thought they were absolutely insane!

    And yes, I do have characters who’ve taken a leap of faith, but that’s another story.

    I hope they do construct barriers. But on a positive note – congratulations Gold Gate Bridge!

    Great post, darling.
    CC MacKenzie recently posted..DESERT ORCHID CHAPTER NINEMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Christine! Sneaking out of your writing cave, are you? Well thank you for stopping by my place for a visit! Uh, bungie jumping off Victoria Falls IS insane Christine! Yikes! And yes, construting barriers I think would a good thing. But what do we know? Thanks for your thoughts and for stopping by Christine! 🙂

      Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Well said Sheila! I too have traveled across the bridge several times and hadn’t heard about the high suicide rate either until I read about it a couple of days ago. It is sad. I’m with you girl. Spend the money and put that barrier up! Thanks Sheila for your comment and for stopping by! 🙂

      Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Tim! Why did I know that you’d love Robin Trower? I almost put his song “Bridge of Sighs” vlog on the post and then decided that most wouldn’t know who the heck he was. And it was ten minutes long. That wouldn’t work. LOL! And yes the photo of the shoes was a powerful statement. And I know it was sad. But what’s sad is the fact that people are dying needlessly. Putting a barrier up would be a great thing to do. It would help save lives. Just sayin”. But I don’t want to go all activist on you all here. I’m just writing about “Life As It Happens!” Hmm. Where did I see that before? Oh yeah, that’s my blog’s logline! 🙂

      Reply
  12. Natalie Hartford

    What an incredible structure and sad that it’s also tied to such tragedy. The picture of the shoes is so very sad and senseless. I agree, barriers should definitely be installed. I mean, if people are determined to complete suicide, they will but I think we need to do everything in our power to make our landmarks as safe and preventative as possible.
    Natalie Hartford recently posted..Urban Word Wednesday: Clam BurgerMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Natalie! Girl, I know that you understand about senseless death with your involvement with MADD. And yes, the Golden Gate Bridge is an amazing structure and full of history. And like you, if only they would take the precaution to make the bridge safer, it could save so many more lives. Yes, the shoes make a very sad statement. But pictures speak louder than words! Thanks Natalie for your thoughts and for stopping by! 🙂

      Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Jennette, you make a great point. If someone is that determined to end their life, i’m sure they would find another means. But like Kevin Hines, who I mentioned, he really didn’t want to die. He just didn’t think anyone cared about him. And now his purpose is to help others to appreciate life. He is one of only five people who has survived jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. His story is interesting. But I think that if they would only put a barrier up, it would at least act as a deterrant and the city and its people would feel less responsible. Thanks Jennette for your comment! 🙂

      Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Coleen! I’m so glad that you and your husband had the opportunity to visit San Francisco! It’s a city like no other. And you too walked the bridge! See, that would creep me out. I’ve driven over it, but not walked. You’re braver than me girl. Yes, the picture of the shoes is sobering. I wasn’t going to get that serious until I found it and then I just had to include the photo in the post. Pictures can speak louder than words. Yes, a Bridge of Sighs indeed! Thanks Coleen for sharing your thoughts and for coming by! 🙂

      Reply
  13. Fabio Bueno

    Hi, Karen! We missed you…
    I was in SF last month, and we visited the Golden Gate Bridge. They were remodeling for the 75th anniversary. It’s gorgeous, imponent, and distinctive, a landmark like no other.
    While crossing the bridge on foot, we saw several interphones marked “emergency phone and crisis counseling” and signs with “The consequences of jumping from this bridgeare fatal and tragic.” Of course, those are a deterrent, but they can’t replace proper barriers. You’d imagine that installing them should be a priority for the community.
    Fabio Bueno recently posted..Romantic Comedy Movie GeneratorMy Profile

    Reply
      1. Karen Post author

        Hi Jenny! Yep, there’s phones on the bridge. There’s been phones on the bridge as long as I can remember. But like Fabio said, putting up barriers would make a better deterrent. Great to see you Jenny and best wishes with Fast Draft! Keep us informed on how it turns out! It sounds like writing on speed! LOL! 🙂

        Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Fabio! Great to see you! Thanks, it’s nice to be missed! You must have had a nice trip. San Francisco is a fabulous place to visit. And the Golden Gate Bridge is an imposing structure like no other! It truly is an historical landmark. I have driven across it several times in my life, but never walked. Wow, walking on the bridge is almost like an “E” ticket ride Fabio. And yes, phone and counseling are great, but it does not replace barriers when someone has lost their mind. Thanks Fabio for all your thoughts and for stopping by! 🙂

      Reply

Leave a Reply to CC MacKenzie Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

Click to "Follow Me" and receive new posts by email