Since I got home yesterday and calmed down a little bit, I’ve been debating whether or not to write a post about this. First of all, I don’t want to gross people out. Second of all, I don’t want to gross myself out and go into shock all over again–but, I think it might help me to get this out into the universe, out of my own head, and tell people about it. Most importantly, I didn’t want to come across as disrespectfully exploiting this situation and I felt a little selfish about how much this affected me, when I know there are others where this wasn’t just an incident that happened to someone they didn’t know. It was someone’s son, brother, father, boyfriend…someone special to them. I’m just hoping, maybe by writing this post, the scene will stop replaying in my head in slow motion, over and over again. Maybe I’ll stop hearing that sickening crack, echoing in my head.
It was a sunny and gorgeous Friday afternoon yesterday (I know, cliche’, but it’s true!) as I was driving home from work with my windows down, in rush hour traffic. I was driving through Midtown, the second-largest business district in Atlanta, on Peachtree Street. I stopped at a red light in the right-hand lane between 14th street and 10th street, watching the “well-to-do” out and about, enjoying the sunny afternoon. Some people were walking dogs, some kids were out with their parents. There were a lot of joggers. There was a well-dressed young lady in a long white trench coat with her hair pulled elegantly into a bun. She was probably my age, and she was walking confidently toward the strip of restaurants, passing the million-dollar condominium/loft apartments. I began to wonder if she was meeting someone for a date, going back to work or just going home. Either way, she looked like she was pretty happy and there was a spring in her step and a smile on her face.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something falling silently from the sky.
I noticed there was a lot of construction work going on that day, so that was the first place my mind went to. Why were the construction workers throwing stuff off of the top of the building when there were people walking?! That’s so dangerous!
It seemed like the object fell in slow motion, while it slowly dawned on me what the object was as I heard the well-dressed young woman scream a blood curdling scream, followed by a loud CRACK that sounded like a car accident, as a body landed right in front of her on the sidewalk, splattering blood all over her face and her white trench coat, right ahead of me.
I screamed, grabbed my glasses and threw them on the seat next to me and dug the palms of my hands into my eyes. I don’t know why I reacted that way, or how that would’ve helped the situation. I think I just couldn’t believe what I saw and I wanted to “un-see” it. I looked up again at the girl and she turned and ran/fell into the arms of a man who I don’t believe she had ever met and he grabbed her, pulled her close and they sunk onto the ground screaming.
I began to shake and dry-heave while my hands fumbled around, looking for my phone to call 9-1-1. I saw others around me freaking out as well–some shaking their heads, some crying–and every one was on their cellphone. The light turned green and the people in the right lane began to try desperately to get over into the left lane to be as far away from the scene as possible.
Nobody blew their horn. Nobody was angry when people couldn’t move. I have never heard that street so silent–silent except for the sobs of the young girl with someone else’s blood all over her face and speckled on her white trench coat who was almost killed herself by someone else trying to end their own life.
If she had just been two steps closer…
I don’t know why I did it, but I think I wanted to make sure it was real. Maybe I wanted to prove to myself it wasn’t real and I didn’t just see someone commit suicide on this beautiful Friday afternoon, when all I was trying to do was get home from work. I looked over to the sidewalk and saw the body of a young man, arms and legs twisted around and sticking out in ways that I have never seen before–and never, ever, want to see again. He was wearing a denim jacket with brightly colored patches sewn on it and had on a plaid shirt underneath. He had on nice dress shoes, they looked just like G.’s black dress shoes, and then I saw the back of his head, not his face thank god, and it was covered by a brown sock-cap.
I saw the thick, dark-red blood slowly begin to spill out from underneath his head, then the rest of his body, staining the pristine white sidewalk.
I started to dry-heave again and I realized I wasn’t getting through to the police–I’m assuming it’s because other people were calling them. I looked up into the apartment building where I thought he might have come from. Everyone from every unit was on their patio, just staring down. I couldn’t see how far up the building went because it was so tall. I don’t think I want to know how far he fell.
There was a man on the other side of the sidewalk with tears streaming down his face holding a guitar. He was in a business suit. Why he was holding a guitar, I’ll never know, but he was on the phone and I heard him giving someone the address of where we were. “On Peachtree street between 10th and 14th. We need you to hurry, please,” he said as his voice broke.
I was shaking so badly, I wasn’t sure whether or not I could physically drive my car. I didn’t know what else to do, so I called G. as the light turned green again, and for some reason, every one decided it would be okay to start driving again, so I did too.
He answered in a hushed voice, sounding a little irritated, “Hey, I’m still at work and I…”
I cut him off and I couldn’t get the words out correctly. I couldn’t make my mouth work.
“I just saw…Peachtree…in car… a guy killed himself by jumping…(dry-heave) off building…landing on sidewalk…by my car…girl…bloody…”
I started to drive further down the street to keep up with the traffic. I saw four cop cars screaming past me, followed by an ambulance from Grady, infamously known here as the worst hospital in Atlanta unless you have a heart attack or are in severe trauma. They’re the best with trauma.
Maybe they can save him…I stupidly thought for a second. I forgot G. was on the phone. He kept asking me if I was there and if I was okay. He said he would leave right away from work to get me.
I told G. I didn’t want to park anywhere near the area of the accident. I said accident because it made me feel better. Like the young man wasn’t intentionally taking his own life. I don’t know what would be worse, actually. I felt guilty as I started to think this way, but I realized I almost hoped it was a suicide and not an accident. What would be worse? Accidentally falling off of the ledge to your death, or having it planned and being so distraught that you wanted to take your own life, not caring who saw you and who was affected by your actions.
“I just want to get home,” I choked out. “I’ll be okay. I just need. I need to be home. I’ll call you if I have to pull over somewhere.”
G. reluctantly got off of the phone. I needed to concentrate on driving and not causing another “accident.” I kept taking deep, shaky breaths, trying to fight off the panic attack that was creeping through my body. Everything began to look crystal clear, too clear, yet I couldn’t focus. My mouth felt so dry I couldn’t swallow. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears until I heard more sirens and each time I did, I almost jumped out of my own skin and began to shake and dry heave again.
I finally got home, though I barely remember driving there. I parked in the parking garage at our loft and as I put it in park, I finally lost it. I began to cry uncontrollably, sobs hammering through my body, as I laid my head onto my steering wheel. I kept hearing that sickening crack and how quickly and silently this young man’s body fell toward the ground. I kept seeing the blood splattered all over that girls white trench coat and her face.
I got out of my car and my legs were shaking so badly I had to hold onto my door to regain my balance. I made it to our apartment, dropped my keys three times trying to get our house key into the lock, and stumbled in. I walked into our living room and just sat on the couch in silence and that’s where G. found me an hour later.
Since then, I’ve been afraid to walk underneath areas of our apartment building where people have patios. Every time I hear a loud noise I scream, jump and shake. I had nightmares of myself falling last night, so vivid that when I woke myself up right before I hit the pavement, I was shaking and sweating. When I wasn’t dreaming about that, I was dreaming about the accident itself, silently playing like a scene from a movie, over and over again in my head.
I’m hoping since I’ve written this, put it out into the universe and shared what I saw (misery loves company?) I’ll start to feel a little better. The dread is already starting to lighten a little bit and I think it’s because I have written it out, like a story. Perhaps writing about it as a story subconsciously makes me look at it as something that didn’t really happen. Just something I read in a book and after a few days the memory will slowly become just that. Just a story. I guess time will tell.