Suicides, from Living Again: An Autobiography, by Felix Riesenberg

November 10th, 2012

Always there is death. In those early St Mary’s days death was close, for Bellevue had the morgue, and out of morbidness some of us went there to see rows of white-sheeted stillness on the slabs–the lost and forgotten corpses of a city that holds so much of life and happiness and hope. The wharves by the East River attract those drifting near the edge. Always we had the dinghy, a black-painted, four-oared boat, swung out in its davits at the port fore rigging. The call to launch was answered with alacrity. It would splash into the slip and stroke away toward the floundering of the desperate. Many would-be suicides were snatched from the cold river by the boys on the schoolship. I took part in a few of these rescues, the saved sometimes cursing us until hot coffee and a slab of corned beef brought them to their senses. Jumping from piers seems to be one of the reactions of the city. As buildings grew higher, jumping from windows and splattering on the hard cement became a ghastly fact. Not long ago, in the storm center of the depression, I had a man drop close to me on Forty-fifth Street. He landed with a thud and lay still. There was no human boat capable of saving him once he had started down; screams, terrorizing cries clattered about and echoed between the high walls of adjoining office buildings, but these came from women, spectators in opposite cubicles. The falling man was silent. A policeman pulled a tarpaulin from a truck and threw it over the inert body. Two young women who had been closer than I were carried into a near-by drugstore; they had fainted.

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