In Williamson County, Tennessee, there’s a bridge called the Natchez Trace Bridge. It’s an impressive structure, soaring high above the ground — which has made it not only picturesque but deadly.
There are no barriers on the bridge and, according to the Tennessean, 33 people are known to have perished there since 2000.
As a result, affected family members and friends are desperately trying to get barriers put in place to prevent any more losses — but the proposed addition wouldn’t take place until 2023.
“The Natchez Trace Bridge Barrier Coalition was formed by two survivors of suicide loss at the Natchez Trace Bridge; Trish Merelo Miller lost her son, and Sarah Elmer lost her sister and also lost a friend,” the group’s Facebook “about” page reads. “Trish and Sarah are determined to turn their grief into action, preventing further loss of life at Middle Tennessee’s ‘suicide magnet.’
“As so many bridges around the country are being outfitted with suicide prevention barriers, including the iconic Golden Gate, the time is now for the National Park Service to follow suit with the Natchez Trace. Please join us in making this very important difference in our community, STOP suicides at the Natchez Trace Bridge.”
“It’s become evident that we can’t wait until 2023 for a barrier,” Trish Merelo told the Tennessean. “The conversation now has to move to what can be done in the meantime while the Federal Highway Administration is working toward the permanent design. A temporary structure or round-the-clock volunteer or law enforcement presence, something is needed.”
On Monday at 4 a.m., a young man was perched on the railing, 155 feet above the ground, contemplating the abyss. He must have known he was in trouble, as he dialed 911 himself. A short while later, Deputy Adrian Finch showed up and carefully approached the 18-year-old.
The following rescue was caught on Finch’s bodycam and dashcam. He stood a ways back from the ledge and talked to the teen, trying to convince him to step down and accept help.
“Let me tell you something,” Finch said. “You ain’t been nowhere I ain’t been myself, ok? And let me tell you something, what you’re going through, I can help you with it, ok? But you have to listen to me, ok?”
“I’m listening,” the teen said.
“If you’re willing to take my help, I will help you, you understand? But I need you to do one thing for me though, I need you to do one thing for me, ok? I need you to step down so I can talk to you, ok?”
The deputy reassured the teen that he didn’t want to scare or hurt him, and offered him his hand. “Hold my hand,” he said. “I’m here to help you, ok? Just take my hand.”
He promised to help the young man, and eventually, the 18-year-old climbed down, repeating to himself, “I’m going to hell for this.”
“You’re all right,” Finch said as the young man reached him and started sobbing; he even started questioning why he was out on the bridge in the first place, seeming confused and upset.
“Deputy Soto was given this award after he saved a life at the Natchez Trace Bridge,” the Facebook post from Oct. 2 read. “He was on routine patrol before dawn this summer when he saw someone standing on the outside of the bridge railing about to jump. Deputy Soto reacted quickly and pulled the teenager to safety.”
They also shared Finch’s recent story, and it really hit home for one commenter.
“Y’all helped me off the same place years ago!” one reader commented on the post. “Thanks again. Glad you could help another person in need.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.
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