There is a bridge
not far away
where jumpers used to go.
I grew up by the Prince Edward Viaduct, and for as long as I can remember, the Luminous Veil guarded its sides. A series of vertical steel cords, stretched taut behind the railings of the bridge. A boulevard of tilted steel crosses, strung and blocking the view of the Don Valley Parkway.
Built in 1918, the bridge came to be a a common place for people to commit suicide; a combination of a ten story drop and the highway below. At its peak, the bridge was host to a suicide every month; the North American suicide destination second only to the Golden Gate Bridge. In 2003, the Toronto City Council approved the construction of the Luminous Veil, a suicide prevention barrier. Underfunded and overbudget, the Veil was left uncompleted: no lights line the steel rods; darkness reigns the Veil at night. Luminous indeed.
The oxymoron of the dark Luminous Veil always struck me as ironic; as if the light of life itself has been snuffed by budgets and bureaucracy. As if they didn't care if the light still shone; only making sure that the project was functionally complete. Many nights have been spent walking down the darkened bridge, wind whipping through the steel cords, staring out at the headlights that pass between the gaps. L'appel du vide, not as great as the Golden Gate, but a more persistent tugging.
Suicides on the Viaduct dropped off after the completion of the Veil, but the rate of jumpers in the Greater Toronto Area never did decrease; the Veil merely pushed those jumpers off other bridges.
They built the veil of light to save
the people down below.