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Personal tragedies are not always public information

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

Suicide is a private, personal decision. When it’s done privately, the media doesn’t publicize it — and justly so. It’s none of our business. When it’s public, however, certain details are necessary to at least give those who happened by some idea of what just occurred. But there’s the rub: Out of respect for the family, authorities must proceed slowly, whether the media likes it or not.


We try to delicately and respectfully approach the subject — not requesting a name but an age and hometown, as well as the circumstances of death. The ground rules changes if it’s a celebrity or famous figure. Few would argue.

With choppers flying overhead and a Coast Guard vessel nearby, the NYPD’s Harbor Patrol recovered the body of a man roughly 20 or so minutes after he jumped from the George Washington Bridge on Wednesday, an eyewitness told CLIFFVIEWPILOT. From there, it was a matter of waiting before revealing much more, which the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey did.

Full disclosure: I wasn’t satisfied with that. I didn’t want to know his name, just some information that might lead us to understand why these kinds of things happen the way they do. But I got a good schooling in humility.

Only those who needed to know at the time were aware who the man was who left his car on the upper level of the George Washington Bridge at 10:10 a.m. Wednesday, then went over the railing on the north side of the bridge, which is closed to pedestrian traffic.

For the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is responsible for the bridge, all that WE needed to be told at the time was that traffic wasn’t disrupted. Plain and simple.

As for how old he was, where he came from, where the body was found, how it was recovered, and what investigators know about the circumstances — all details that wouldn’t reveal his identity but might shed some light on what prompts such actions — the media would have to wait. And if I didn’t lke it, well, I had no right to any of that information before next-of-kin was officially notified. And these things take time, especially if there’s no family immediately around.

Today, a spokesman for the Port Authority provided the information after confirming the family had been notified. No need to recount the details here, other than that the New York man who jumped to his death was in his mid-50s. Otherwise, let’s keep it what it was: a private tragedy and a public mystery.

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