The day of Matthew’s Life Celebration began cool and cloudy. We left Richmond in a chartered bus, headed for the Golden Gate Bridge. Specifically to Light Standard #97. Why? We know a young man jumped from this location in the early morning of Thursday, November 15, 2007. His body has never been recovered. Our son’s car was recovered in the south east parking lot that morning and the California Highway Patrol began a search for the owner.
That search lead to our home, as the registered owners, and eventually to our work locations through a neighbor. Much too late. We found that Matthew left the house early that day and that he had previously searched the internet for directions to the Golden Gate Bridge. He also searched to see if the suicide barriers for the bridge were in place. They weren’t.
That day he wasn’t at school, actually hadn’t been there for a week. He had tried to contact friends over the previous days but was unsuccessful in making connection. In searching his car we found a full set of clothing in the trunk, wet and reeking of oil, from a recent Bay Bridge oil freighter collision. What happened is still unclear but there is the possibility that Matthew made a suicidal attempt on Monday, three days prior.
This day was special as it was not just the Celebration of Matthew’s Life, it was also the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. We began our process for this portion of the Celebration by obtaining a permit with the bridge district in July 2010 and it was granted as a First Amendment permit. After a civil rights court challenge about permits in January 2012, the permit was no longer required if our group was less than 50 and, if over 50 people, a permit would not be allowed due to the bridge’s celebrations. We accepted these conditions.
Less than 2 weeks prior to our event we heard on the news the south-east parking lot would be closed. This was where our group was to disembark and walk past the south tower to our destination. We contacted the bridge district staff about this restriction and appealed to make an exceptation for our group since our request was 2 years old and originally accepted. Staff brought our appeal to a meeting and in discussion with the bridge patrol and CHP, we were allowed drop-off and parking privileges for an hour.
We made our transit to the Golden Gate Bridge and arrived early. Unfortunately staff was unaware of our pending arrival but they accommodated us readily. We were grateful there weren’t many pedestrians on the bridge. Several of us encountered people that were curious of the groups carrying the multitude of roses.
I was walking a short way with Gloria, a woman who lost her son, also Matthew, when we were approached by a gentleman with a question. He said, “I know the bridge has an anniversary but why are so many people carrying roses?” Gloria responded, “The roses are for a memorial for her son that she lost from the bridge.” His response was, “I’m sorry. I have lived in San Francisco all my life and I know the [bridge] district has done a lot to stop the suicides, but not enough.” Gloria says, “Thank you, we have both lost our sons, our Matthews, on this bridge. “
I must mention this wonderful woman has never been on the bridge in her life and for the love of our sons, she walked past the south tower to light post 97 to toss a bouquet for her son.
Gloria couldn’t remain and returned to help with the shuttle of volunteers for the BridgeRail Foundation “Whose Shoes?” event in the Crissy Amphitheater, but I will never forget her courage – for the love of her son and mine.
Until someone loses a loved one, a child, and follows in the steps their child walked to their death, they will never be able to imagine the strength it took this woman, on this day, to make this walk with us.