When Others Fall

Recently, I switched on my phone and, clicking on Google, I landed on an article about a New York college student who died after falling from a clock tower. I gasped and shut the tab. Then I gazed out, and into the rising sun in front of me. My inquisitiveness got the better of me: how far did she fall?

True, I seem to have a more-than-passing curiosity with the whole act of falling. I often wonder how people fall.. and how far. Do they survive? And if so, in what state? What injuries do they sustain? Are they paralyzed? Do they have brain injuries? I recall once reading how those whose bodies stay relaxed and limp while in a freefall, are less likely to sustain grave injuries (or death).

I know: it’s a morbid fascination. Bred from personal experience, attributable to my tumble off that bridge in Cambodia.

Tentatively, I scrolled down the page. A Fordham University senior, weeks shy of graduating, had climbed the Bronx campus’ bell tower – which is known to be off-limits. Sydney Monfries was only 22 when she fell through a stairway landing and plummeted down to her death.

“The fall was about 30 feet, school officials said.”

I stopped there, and stared hard.

I too fell 30 feet. (10 meters)

I have no conscious memory of the fall, but I know that my body does.

Reading those double-digit falls messes with my head.  Why did I make it back up alive – and Sydney didn’t? Why do so many people take these precipitous falls, and die or end up being paralyzed? An inexplicable dose of survivors’ guilt takes hold. Sometimes I want to reach out into the void of this world and ask: Who else survived a 10+ meter fall; more or less intact?

I want to ask: What is life like for you? How have you put that fall behind you – or do you relive it? Does the memory still reside in your mind? In your body?

Just the other day, I heard about another expat – a Hash House Harrier – who once slipped off the paper trail, then tumbled about 50 meters off an embankment – and survived. He broke bones, recovered, and is already back to hashing. Others who fall must also have tattoos of trauma etched, silently, invisibly, into their body. Hell yes, I need to meet this guy.


  1. I understand that survivors guilt (for me it is my surviving breast cancer while my best friend did not). Ours is not to question why. It is simply to be grateful for being here and to enjoy the moments.

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