Visiting the Department of Justice Santa Fe Concentration Camp

Sites like this need to be included in the city or county even state list of interests for people to look for and visit. These men are disrespected in the worst way when they were alive. They need better recognition now.

KITSUNE: The Fox Woman's Mirror

IMG_1961_2It is always strange to go visit a place that does not immediately reflect the historical events that occurred there. Driving through the pleasant Casa Solana neighborhood in Santa Fe one would have no clue that before these houses were built, 4,555 men of Japanese ancestry were unjustly imprisoned here from 1942 to 1946. They were separated from their wives, children and families. Most lost their livelihoods and homes.

It is a beautiful Fall day. The light has a golden cast. We soon arrive to the Frank Ortiz Dog Park. It is made up of winding natural trails for hiking and dog walking.  My local guides, Japanese American Sue Rundstrom and Artist Jerry West lead me up to a ridge above the dog park and we looked down on the Casa Solana neighborhood.

A large grey granite boulder with a plaque stands overlooking where the Department of Justice Santa Fe…

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The Alone Sibling: Dealing with Sibling Loss

The Alone Sibling: Dealing with Sibling Loss.

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‘To boldly talk about suicide’

The S Word is not just for Suicide but the Stigma that prevents us from talking about it! I applaud Lisa Klein for taking such a bold but necessary action! Kudos!

What happens now?

My name is Lisa Klein, and I am a documentary filmmaker. A documentary filmmaker who has never written a blog entry before today. The ones I’ve been asked to write never seemed as urgent as this one.

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Birthdays and Graves and Desecration

May 28, 2014.

Today is difficult, always is, celebrating the birthday of a child who is missing or who has died. Today Matthew would have been 27.  He may be 27 somewhere else, but all circumstantial evidence indicates he died at 20 years old.  Evidence indicates he died from a jump off the Golden Gate Bridge.

For our family, it is tradition to honor our loved ones by including them in major events, such as celebrating birthdays or angelversaries, or just to talk, reminisce or catch up with family, by going to the grave, talking and leaving mementos.

Unfortunately our family does not have that option. Matthew’s body was never recovered so we were not able to bury him. His grave is below Lightpost 97 of the Golden Gate Bridge.  So a minimum of twice a year, we take at 60 minute drive, go through two tolls for $10, to park on the south side of the bridge.  We take our flowers and cards and walk the bridge from the parking lot to just beyond the south tower.

When we go out on the bridge, we  know people glance backwards because they are too polite to stare, most of them. They never engage us and leave us to our pain and memories.

Today was an exception.

When standing with flowers at Light Standard 97, I heard a construction cart drive by then stop. I turned to look and saw two men alight from it.  One young man stood close to me and asked if I was alright.  I understood they were concerned that I was potentially suicidal. I explained why I was there; why I had the flowers: no body – no grave – this was my only site to rest flowers.

Matt’s flowers

Matt’s flowers

He acknowledged my situation, realizing I was not a threat to myself and left me alone. I patted his arm and thanked him for his concern and checking on me.

After about 15 minutes of imagining Matt’s last few minutes before he died, standing at that railing, recalling his life with us, and wishing peace for his soul, I tossed the flowers over the railing. Except a few. They were tied to his birthday card. I always leave a card for Matt for the event that brings me there and always leave flowers.

Matt’s Birthday Card

Matt’s Birthday Card

I walked slowly off the bridge, avoiding eye contact and just staying within my personal zone.  As I came to the bottom of the path near the new pavilion, I noticed a woman with a helmet and wearing a green jacket.  She was standing and waiting. Apparently for me. When I came to the end  of the walkway she stepped sideways towards me and asked if I was the one who left the flowers on the bridge.

I said I did and she offered her most sincere condolences on my loss. I explained it was my son’s birthday; “how old?”; 27; “what a blessing you had him for 27 years”. No, he was 20 when he died, but yes that was a blessing. “Even a short blessing can be enough” – it was everything and we are grateful to have had so much time with him.

She let me hug her in gratitude.

“Matthew”, I said to myself, “You were always a blessing and thank you for sending this woman to remind me how much you mean to the world, even a world without you.”

I carried this thought in my heart as I walked to my car.  I park away from the bridge, because I always need time to regain my composure.  I usually head home but today was slightly different.  I had the goal of looking at the Vista Point at the North end for a potential site for a memorial or retreat for families who lost someone to suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge.  The bridge district refuses to allow a memorial of any kind, except for one of “their own”.

The Vista Point is CalTrans property and it isn’t clear if they have restrictions on memorials.  So when leaving I crossed the bridge and headed to the Vista Point.  On my way I noted that the card and flowers for Matthew were no longer on the railing.  This was unusual – the district usually waits several hours before taking down his memorium. This couldn’t have been 15 minutes since I left. Broke my heart to see them gone so soon.

When I arrived at the Vista Point on the north end, I walked around at the area north of the restrooms, where there are simple native plants. In the parking area opposite me were two bridge patrol cars and a highway patrol car. Two officers were out of their cars and all were chatting.

As I was taking photos of the area I noted a jogger pass me and approach the officers. I heard the jogger say, “I just want to thank you for taking down the flowers. I just couldn’t go past that again. It would be too hard for me.”  That is my best recollection of his statement. It took me 30-60 seconds to realize he might be talking about my flowers for Matt.

I turned and approached the officers and asked, “I overheard what the man said. Were those my flowers and card you took down?” These two officers were clearly caught off guard. They said yes, offered their condolences on my loss and I asked what their reason was for removing them.

“Our concern is if someone sees something like this it will create a situation where they might want to jump.” My head screamed – Seriously??? Someone would look at that card and realize how much the family was impacted by the loss and see how much the person was loved…if anything, they would NOT act on their feelings.

But I let that go in the moment. “Well, as long as you have a reason.” was all I could say.

The officer asked if I would like what they removed – Yes, I would like to give the card to my other son – and they gave me both the card and flower – “We really didn’t want to throw this away.”

I thanked them and left but felt terribly offended. Not by the officers’ action but by the stranger who was offended by my offering to my son. Perhaps it could be emotionally difficult for him to see and realize someone’s son died there, but obviously he didn’t even consider what it took for the family to place it there.

Did it not cross his mind that we would rather NOT come to such a public place to be with our child?  Did he not consider how difficult it is for family to be in the midst of tourists and joggers and bicycles and  cars and noise to be at a gravesite?

The flower and card were obviously there to honor the dead.  Yet he took it upon himself to have it removed. For selfish reasons; because it made him uncomfortable.

This is clearly an act of desecration. He took away the “sacredness of this site”.   For the thousands of lives lost at this site, it is most certainly sacred.

There are hundreds of families like ours, where we have never recovered the body of our loved one.  There any tens of families whose religion requires burial in consecrated grounds, else the soul of an unburied body would never find peace. Yet this jogger could only think of himself and how this expression of love offended him.

I was completely at a loss of understanding for all of this.  With all the encouraging and loving actions of the day, they felt smeared and besmirched with this action of degradation against my son, and against all those lives lost at this site.

This only reinforces the need for a site for families like ours; a site for reflection and remembrance, where we can grieve in semi-privacy and not offend those with gentle constitutions with our gestures of love.

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The Final Touch

The Final Touch ©: the last addition needed to make something complete.

Final touch photo

This is the site of The Final Touch made by 2,000 people or more in the past 75 years; the Golden Gate Bridge. It was their last tangible encounter before they died. Their hands rested on cold steel and they were alone, confused and in pain. The few who survived the fall admit they immediately regretted their actions, were grateful to be alive and insisted a barrier is needed.

The final touch of the Golden Gate Bridge was never completed.

Engineer Joseph Strauss was determined to have limited loss of life during this bridge construction.  He was a leader in ensuring the safety of his workers by using leather helmets, safety lines and a safety net. This woven net saved many men during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Strauss was also adamant that this bridge would not be a site for suicides. In 1936 he told the San Francisco Call that suicide would be improbable if not impossible based on his railing design.

Unfortunately the design of the bridge was changed by architect Irving Morrow.

Now the Golden Gate Bridge has become an international symbol for suicide and the site of the most suicides from a structure in the world.

Now is the time to create The Final Touch © and make this bridge as Joseph Strauss intended; Where suicides are improbable, if not impossible.

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Awareness on the State Level

*See Update Below –

I never thought I might be this involved in state legislation.  I have been happy enough just voting on issues that are important to me. But when something comes along that is THIS important, it changes how I feel.

You know me. You know I lost my youngest child by suicide at the age of 20 by a jump off a bridge.  You know suicide prevention matters to me. So there is an important piece of legislation is being considered in Sacramento in the Assembly and it needs to pass to be considered by the State Senate. Of Course, your help is needed to ensure passage.

Assembly Bill 755 would require authorities to consider the need for a suicide barrier when a bridge is built or reconstructed in California. This just requires a review to determine if there is a potential of the availability and lethality of a bridge without a barrier. No demands. Just a review. This bill was introduced by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano and will be heard in the Assembly Transportation Committee on April 15.  The BridgeRail Foundation is one of the sponsors for this bill.

Across the country we have seen law enforcement insist on effect barriers on bridges being reconstructed.  We have also seen new bridges being built with some consideration given to potential suicides, but without effective measure taken. And lives lost.

(http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765593087/Hoover-Dam-bridge-suicides-spur-NDOT-review.html?pg=all ) When the Hoover Dam bypass bridge was still under construction I actually wrote to the construction manager.  They didn’t feel there would be a problem.  Already 2 people have died since it opened last year. Not a good start. Obviously they did not consult the suicide prevention groups, mental health advocates or even law enforcement agencies that would have to deal with the deaths.

Even the California Highway Patrol was the first to advocate for barriers on the Golden Gate Bridge 2 years AFTER it opened. After 75 years we see how far that has gotten. Studies show that restricting easy access to lethal means is proven to reduce suicide, thus we know this legislation can help save lives. So, for the lives lost, the hundreds missing and presumed dead, the ones who regretted letting go of the railing, take a few minutes from your life to be a citizen and make a difference in many lives. Write, call and email your legislator and ask their support of AB 755. Because suicide is never about just the victim. It is about the family, friends, co-eds, co-workers who have to deal with Life without that person.

UPDATE: I am glad to let everyone know that this passed the legislature and was signed into law by Governor Brown.

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San Francisco: Where Tolerance is King and “Coming Out” is Queen.

I always believed San Francisco was socially ahead of many other metropolises because of its citizens’ ability to learn to understand and accept each other. This is due to an effort to obtain accurate information and becoming aware of situations or lifestyles, and well, refusing to be pushed back into a closet, away from Life itself, literally in some cases.

So is there a topic that is SO sensitive that it still cannot be openly discussed?
Oddly enough – there is: Suicide – the crisis of mental health.

Mental illness, with chronic (long term) or acute (short-term) issues, affects 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 children and adolescents, caused by a brain dysfunction or disease. One would think this would be a major topic of discussion.

The major obstacle with the discussion of mental health and suicide is the stigma associated with them. The stigma is what prevents so many people from, discussing how they are feeling, their level of despair or even believing they cannot seek treatment without whispers or ridicule.

How can we discuss sexual orientation, gay marriage and impotence on radio and television but not about depression so severe and so painful that a person feels death is their only option?

How can we discuss a president having oral sex with an intern on the radio and television but not about schizophrenia or bipolar disorders, how those are treated and how the families are affected?

How can we discuss Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder when it involves our active service members or veterans but openly deride the PTSD suffered by the families and friends of a suicide victim?

When it comes to suicides at the Golden Gate Bridge, the families, who are trying to heal, suffer flashbacks, experiencing their loss over and over again every time another victim succumbs to suicide at the Golden Gate Straits. Just as veterans and service members relive the ordeals they have experienced, their wound is rended again and again.

San Franciscans normally stand up and deter abuse towards groups of people or even their surrounding environment. Yet many San Franciscans have chosen to ignore or even disparage the victims (“ better to put in a diving board”) and thereby create the most inhuman environment for individuals with mental disorders and diseases, at a time when assistance is needed the most – during a crisis; the Crisis of Suicide.

Oh Yes, San Franciscans, you do. It is so easy to ignore the situation (if it was Embarcadero One, would you allow it to continue?), your acceptance of over 30 people every year dying at one location, and simply by not getting informed.

In talking with people, I am amazed at how little is actually known, so I have to ask, “What do you know about San Francisco and Golden Gate Bridge suicides?”

Between 1996 and 2006, what was the major means of suicide in San Francisco (you must include the Golden Gate Bridge – it is in Rep. Pelosi’s district!)?
Jumping from heights

What percentages of those were from the Golden Gate Bridge?
60%

During this time period, jumping from heights in San Francisco accounted for what percentage of ALL California suicides by jumping from heights?
33% (1/3 !)

During this time period, jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB) alone accounted for what percentage of ALL California suicides by jumping from heights?
20%  (An amazing 1/5! )

What is the lethality of GGB attempts?
98%  (98 out of 100 will die)

What is the average lethality of all other methods combined in San Francisco in this time period?
47% (47 out of 100 will die)

What percentage of those who died from this site had a diagnosed mental illness or disorder?
More than 60%

What disorder was the most diagnosed?
Depression at 34%

Mental illness is due to a brain dysfunction, disorder or disease. Just as any other organ in the body can have a disease or disorder  leading to death, such as a heart attack, kidney failure or a diabetic coma, the crisis of a brain dysfunction can be death by suicide.

Yet there it cowers… “Suicide” …in the back of a closet in San Francisco, too stigmatized to even ‘come out’.

San Francisco, now is time to open the door.

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