It’s the 1970s. A 30-something man makes his way across the Golden Gate Bridge. He’s passed by pedestrians and cyclists, and steps around tourists taking pictures of Alcatraz, Angel Island, and the channel of water below that runs between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. He gazes up at the reddish-orange towers soaring above, and then climbs over the bridge’s four-foot safety railing. He steps out onto a 32-inch wide beam known as “the chord,” pauses, takes one last long look out at the bay, and then jumps. His body plummets 220 feet and violently hits the water at 75 mph. The impact breaks his ribs, snaps his vertebrae, and pulverizes his internal organs and brain. The Coast Guard soon arrives to recover his limp, lifeless body.
When the medical examiner later located and searched the jumper’s sparse apartment, he found a note the man had written and left on his bureau. It read:
“I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.”