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Lions Gate

Stephen Osborne

Not long ago, late on a Monday afternoon, a man with a camera clambered onto the railing of Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver in order to get a clear view of the sunset he wanted to take a picture of, and, on stretching his upper body toward the scene that attracted him so powerfully, pitched over the side of the bridge and plummeted sixty metres into the ocean below. What happened to the camera has not been recorded, but the falling man, during the few moments of his descent (which he would later calculate to have been about 2.5 seconds), was spotted by two lifeguards in an inflatable dinghy who were patrolling Third Beach, a swimming area about a mile along the shore from Lions Gate Bridge. The lifeguards had to have been ignoring the sunset, in fact they must have been looking precisely in the opposite direction, in order to have seen the falling man, whom they presumed to be a suicide, at the instant of his fall, and then the insignificant splash as he slipped beneath the sea. When they got up to the spot (at full throttle), the man (the “jumper” as the lifeguards were already referring to him) had come to the surface and was thrashing around trying to keep his head above water. The lifeguards hauled him into the dinghy and, according to the news report, asked him “if he knew what his name was,” a question designed in lifeguard class to steady a disordered mind, and which the nearly drowned man, whose name was withheld from news reports, apparently answered to their satisfaction.

The nearly drowned man felt later that his life had changed in the moment of his fall from Lions Gate Bridge, although he could never express the nature of the change “in words,” as he put it; instead he traded in his SUV for a non

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Stephen Osborne

Stephen Osborne is a co-founder and contributing publisher of Geist. He is the award-winning writer of Ice & Fire: Dispatches from the New World and dozens of shorter works, many of which can be read at geist.com.


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