“There is only one way to find out”

I recently heard about a documentary called “The Stranger on the Bridge”. It tells the true story of Jonny Benjamin’s global search to find the stranger who talked him out of jumping off Waterloo Bridge in 2008.

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It reminded me of another true story. A stranger who was about to jump in the river Mersey. We also talked him out of jumping. It was 5 years ago. I wonder where he is now, if he saw the film, what he remembers of us.

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I was with a friend and he wanted to show me his city, and a particular view of the Liverpool skyline. He took me through some wastelands on the Birkenhead side of the river Mersey. It was a grey day,

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I didn’t think I would get a good photo, not to say that I am not particularly inspired by skylines. Anyway, he was convincing. It was his city. He loved it. Just as we arrived by the river bank, there was a guy on the wrong side of the fence. He was about to jump. He was in tears. Lost. We approached him gently. What was going on?

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He said he just had a row with his family and that there was no point in going on. We asked him to climb back on the right side of the fence. He didn’t hear us. We asked him his name, he said “Shaun”. My friend said: “you know the water is very cold at this time of the year”. “There is only one way to find out…” Shaun replied. For a few seconds, I was petrified. I thought he would jump, straight away, right in front of us. He didn’t. He kept on crying, his nose was running.

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It lasted never-ending minutes. We talked about families, friends, how rows are part of life. Was he listening? He never looked at us but only in front of him, at the bloody Liverpool skyline. Then he turned his back to the water, jumped back on the right side of the fence, hardly looked at us and just left. We tried to get him to come for a coffee. He said no and just walked away along the river Mersey. We waited a while, watching his shape continue his way along the river, worried that he would stop a bit further and jump for good. He didn’t. Where is he now? I wonder.

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A few weeks later, I was taking pictures at a comedy night in London. One of the stand-up comedians came up with this joke : “Somewhere between mercy and suicide, there is Merseyside”. He added Scousers hated that joke…

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