Monday, January 2, 2012

True Stories of John 18: Suicide Jumper

This isn’t a true story about me. I was just party to one awful night for this man. He’s a fast friend of mine and wishes to remain anonymous, so we’ll call him Quan.

Quan was driving back from the Chinese restaurant when the man stepped into the road. It was just after dusk, leaving the winding road very dim. He was driving ten miles under the speed limit, but still too fast to see the man as he jumped. Before he knew it the hood crumpled and his windshield shattered. It’s a minor miracle that the jumper didn’t pass all the way through and kill Quan. Blood splashed his clothes.

Whatever it says about me, after he got home, I was the first person Quan contacted. I actually thought he was joking when he said he was shaken up and needed to talk. We sat there for hours as I tried to ask the most polite questions possible and ease his jangled mind.

A minivan had been coming in the opposing lane, he told me. It screeched to a stop. Quan and the other driver called 911 almost simultaneously, and they were only minutes from a police station. Flashing lights arrived shortly.

Quan’s car was impounded as evidence. He was kept at the station for hours trying to prove his innocence to people who was too shaken to read. It turned out the man had been suicidal and chose that method to end it. Without a car, Quan’s parents had to pick him up. What a call that must have been to make.

When his Asperger’s flared up under the stress, Quan preferred to type instead of talk. Most of our conversation was in instant messages. After half an hour his spelling and punctuation evened out, and his details grew. You could almost watch him calm down through syntax. I latched onto any mildly promising details, like his estimated speed and the lack of a crosswalk, swearing he had a defense if this went to court, and Quan seemed to register that I cared. I think that’s why he said what he did, something that in almost a decade I never would have thought could come from inside him.

He said he was glad he hit the jumper.

I asked why.

Quan remembered the minivan. That driver hadn’t been alone: he had a little kid in the front passenger seat. If Quan hadn’t hit him, then the jumper would have crossed the double yellow line, and that kid would have seen a man go through his windshield. In all his turmoil and shock, part of him was glad he’d suffered this instead of that father and son.

It was hearsay, but nothing stuck out to me last year like that. At no time this year have I been sadder for a friend, but in my perverse way, at no time have I been prouder. Whatever that says about me.


  1. Yeah, what Virginia said.

    It takes a special kind of person to accept such a horrid event, even knowing he prevented someone much more vulnerable from having to experience it.

  2. What an awful thing to have happened to your friend, and yet what a wonderful and special person he is to have been grateful it happened to him and not the father and son.

    He is indeed special and someone we should all be proud of.


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