PORT ANGELES — Residents gathered at the Valley Creek Eighth Street bridge, not only to mourn community members who have taken their own lives, but to raise awareness about suicide.
About 50 people walked across the bridge Wednesday evening as scores of candles illuminated the rails. Many carried candles, photos of loved ones and flowers.
Siouxzie Hinton, whose home is adjacent to the bridge, wiped tears from her eyes as she described a time several years ago when she nearly jumped from the bridge.
Hinton organized the vigil.
She was battling depression at the time, fighting with her husband and attempting to quit smoking.
“In that moment I said ‘screw it, I’m going to Grandview and buying cigarettes’ and I walked,” she said. Both Eighth Street bridges are between her home and Grandview Grocery.
“Not until I got on the bridge did it ever occur to me to jump off of it — it wasn’t even a thought,” Hinton said.
“In that moment, I was realizing how many officers just drove by me and other citizens, and not one person looked.”
She recalls thinking if just one person stops to talk to her, she will keep going. If no one stopped before she crossed the bridge, she would turn around and leap from the bridge.
As she reached the end of the sidewalk, a woman in an orange Jeep pulled up beside Hinton, she said. The woman jumped out, hugged her and said “I love you,” Hinton said.
“That moment changed my life forever and I made a solemn vow that no one would walk past my door without knowing that I love them,” she said.
Hinton thanked the crowd for attending and talking about something “no one wants to talk about.”
“We should not stand in silence about suicide,” she said. “We should be screaming at the top of our lungs, ‘we love you and your life is important to us.’ ”
Greg Kapitan, who recently moved to Port Angeles from Utah, told the crowd he had never been touched by suicide until he moved to town.
“Two weeks later, a young girl named Ashley took her life,” he said. “I cried on and off for two weeks.”
Kapitan never met Ashley Wishart, the 15-year-old girl who jumped from the bridge in November, but he read about “her spirit, her personality, how warm she was to people and loving,” he said, wiping tears away. “What I would have done …”
Port Angeles Mayor Sissi Bruch told the nearly 50 people who attended the vigil that the gathering was “from the heart.”
“We’re going to put those barriers up,” she said. “This is our city, our community, and If we can continue to spread the love, that is what we all need.”
Councilman Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin also attended the vigil.
New barriers are expected to be installed on the Eighth Street bridges by mid-September, city officials said last month.
The Port Angeles City Council voted 7-0 in January to build a $1.4 million vertical chain link fence with a curved top to help prevent suicides on the 100-foot-tall spans.
Seven people have jumped to their deaths from the twin bridges since they reopened in 2009 with 4-foot-6-inch railings.
Sandy Goodwick told the crowd she was touched by suicide before she was even born. Her grandfather hung himself before she was born “and the church would not even bury him,” she said.
She said she urged the Clallam County commissioners to authorize a suicide prevention task force.
“I want us to look at this and how it affects each one of us, because I bet there is nobody in our towns who is unscathed by what has happened in the last couple of years,” she said.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].