It was the perfect storm, and it all started with a motorcycle.
From my fourth floor workspace, accidents are common viewing. Usually fender-benders, though there was the recent excitement of the Jeep that rolled over and the personified relief felt as co-workers watched the driver walk away from the wreckage unscathed. The thing about the motorcycle was that it snuck up on everyone, a grim foreshadowing of what was to come.
There were no squealing tires, no loud clap of metal on metal, only distant sirens that came all too near. A firetruck. An ambulance. At least two cop cars, shutting down northbound traffic on the service road of what I sardonically call “The NAFTA Highway”. Slowly, some of my co-workers worked their way toward the ample thigh-to-ceiling windows. A few even went to the office of one of the vice presidents of my company for a better look. I could see out those windows from where I sat, speaking on the phone to a vendor in Houston, probably about an overdue lawn cut. As I watched my peers gather around the glass, I chuckled to myself because of the reason I was in that office once: to move that VP’s iTunes library to an external drive that she brought from home so that her music would quit slowing down her company issued laptop.
She had Abba… and The Shins. That made me giggle, perhaps because I have both, as well.
“They’re giving him CPR”, someone said, loud enough for my corner of the office to hear. I still refused to budge, ass firmly planted in my comfortable chair. As a man of almost forty, I had seen my fair share of accidents and been subjected to the brake lights of drivers ahead of me who could not help but look. And, yes, I always looked, too – but only because I was already slowed to a crawl thanks to those in the lead. At least, that is what I told myself.
This time, however, I would not succumb to temptation. The main reason I abstained was because I did not want to see, although being at work had a lot to do with it, too. Hell, I always feel behind after a thirty minute team meeting. How could I possibly justify gawking at EMTs trying to save a man who was in an accident that I didn’t even see?
There is a wing of cublicles on my floor that bisects offices on the northeast and southeast side of the buiding. My desk faces the northeast corner, where all the excitement below was happening. But the people in that middle wing of cubicles had the best – or worst – view of what happened next. And if it were not for the motorcyclist, they never would have seen it.
I heard a loud, collective gasp followed by a few shrieks. I looked toward the twenty or so gathered around the east windows, just in time to witness one female passing out and falling backward while shrieks turned into screams of horror, their lives forever changed because they just had to watch the drama involving the motorcylce.
All involved – the EMTs, the cops, the firemen – heard the sound at the same time. What the Hell was THAT?
On top of the bridge above – known in highway vernacular as a “flyover” – two people wailed and clung to each other. The question clung in their throats, never to be answered satisfactorily… Why?
Two of my co-workers saw most of the fatality. They saw the car pull over to the shoulder of the flyover and the young man get out. However, the drama of the CPR below drew their attention back downward. The next time they looked toward the car, they saw the man hanging over the side, with his arms now gripped by another man who had parked his truck on the bridge. Whether the young man wiggled his way free, or the good samaritan lost his grip, or some combination of both, we will never know.
He was soon free – free of whatever burden had so affected him that he felt the only way out was to end his life. His body turned in midair, slowly, just like a movie stunt. Over and over.
And then he landed on his head, hitting the pavement of the service road below, just yards away from life saving techniques being practiced.
Word traveled around the office quickly and I ended my phone call, unable to concentrate. Upper management walked the aisles of the office urging people to get back to work until they realized that the CEO was in the middle of those east-facing windows, among those affected by the jump. They still tried to restore normalcy, or some semblance of it, because there was about 90 minutes left in the workday.
But there really couldn’t be normalcy once the sheets came out: one over the jumper, one over the guy on the motorcycle – someone who never knew that his last breathing day would become a footnote to a different death.