Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Round Robin Challenge: Obstruction

"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."

-Christopher Reeve

When Nancy, author of the journal, "Nancy Luvs Pix,"came up with the idea of "Obstruction" for our challenge, I was challenged indeed. Right off, I couldn't think of what I might post for the entry. It seems I hadn't taken a lot of photos, this past year, that really fell into that category. I did remember however, that there was an unusual barrier that encircles the base of my very favorite place to get away from life's troubles, Fort Point, which sits just beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

One day last week, I went out to the bridge to relax, and get a few more photos for this challenge.I have always been interested in the two unusual plaques that are attached to the fence,so, I thought this might be a good time to inquire about them. One of the plaques is of a pair of paw prints, the other is of a pair of hands. The story, as I came to find out, was life affirming and profound.

The plaque of the hands is named, "Hopper's Hands," in honor of, Ken Hopper, an iron worker on the Golden Gate Bridge. According to a 2001 article about Mr. Hopper, in the 17 years he had worked on the bridge, had successfully talked 30 people into not committing suicide, by jumping into the cold, foggy waters of the San Francisco Bay. It is estimated that as many as 1,300 may have jumped to their deaths from the bridge, since it's opening in April of 1937. One day an ironworker, working at the bridge, decided to do something to try and help one of those poor lost souls.

The ironworkers who continually work on the bridge are known by several nicknames. "Cowboys in the Sky,""Men of Steel,"but do they have some special training to be able to save a suicidal person? Nope...they simply care THAT much. Although, they have been coached by suicide prevention experts, and sometimes, there will be a police psychologist to assist the men by radio, most of the time they will be on their own to talk the person down. A dangerous job to be sure. , they never quite know who or what they might be facing. Once, a distraught man pulled a knife on an ironworker, yet another was bitten by a woman he had pulled over to safety.

Hopper, and the other ironworkers who volunteer to respond to calls of a possible suicidal person, are on call for this duty 24/7. With each call, at least two will respond, and they employ a number of methods for talking the suicidal person out of killing themselves. The ironworkers all take their turns. When asked why they perform this service, Hopper replied, "We are the only one's dumb enough to do it." The ironworkers have the knowledge, and equipment for the bridge that allows them to be safer then most who might try to help.

Hopper remembers every one of the 30 people he saved, but still remembers the two he lost. One night a man tossed his young child off the bridge, and then threw himself in. After a while, the experiences all became too much for him, and he retired his name from the call list. In time, with a little help for himself, he once again had his name added back onto the call list, to make himself available as an obstruction between the cold water of the bay, and those who feel all their hope is gone. Hopper, and those like him, are the kind of obstacles we pray will come our way.

Note: It is a long standing tradition for the joggers who visit the Fort Point area, to high five, "Hopper's Hands" as they turn around. It's a good feeling to watch that's a good place to visit, and a good place to remember to count your blessings. As for the second plaque I mentioned. Well, the story goes that the ironworkers noticed that a certain female jogger, who always gave "Hoppers Hands" a "high five" also had her dog touch the plaque, so one day they decided to make a special plate for the canine friends who visit the fence. :)

"One day, if I do go to heaven...I'll look around and say, 'It ain't bad, but it ain't San Francisco."

-Herb Caen

Please pay a visit to the other Round Robin participants, and if you would like to play along, just drop by the official Round Robin Journal, read the entry for this challenge, and the Welcome Entry & Rules Of Play, and you are all set. :)

1. Nancy: Nancy Luvs Pix
2. Karen: Outpost Mavarin
3. Dorn: Through The Eyes Of The Beholder
4. Julie: Julie's Web Journal
5. Jessica: QuickSilver
5. Sara: Animated Seasons
6. T. J. Photo Inclusions: Every Picture Tells A Story
7. Tammy: The Daily Warrior
8. Steven: (sometimes photoblog)
9. Carly: Ellipsis...Suddenly Carly
10. Valorie: Keeping Our Human Mother On Her Toes

"Fort Point Barrier" "Hopper's Hands"
Fort Point/Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco, California
March 25th, 2006


Karen Funk Blocher said...

What a wonderful true story! I love the pictures, too. - K.

Sara said...

OMGracious!! Excellent post. :) I love the photos.

Animated Seasons

Dorn said...

A great picture, and a truly remarkable story.

tess said...


Steven said...

Nice. The plaque makes a fitting obstruction with the bridge in the background.

Nancy said...

Yay to you! Wonderful job you did there. You made me proud~

; )

alphawoman said...

I really need to start doing this that I have a new camera! Maybe as soon as spring begins to life its head I will be inspired to find interesting things around these parts.

julie said...

That's really a neat story. Thanks for sharing!

Tammy said...

I loved that story! I grew up in the bay area and worked in San Francisco. I loved the city.

Redbird said...

WOW! Much went into this post, you did a swell job on text and photographs.

My very late entry: