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.


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