Angel Of Nanjing: The story of a man who patrols the Yangtze River Bridge saving people who have tried to commit suicide
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The Yangtze River Bridge in Nanjing is the most popular place in the world to commit suicide. For the past 11 years, blue-collar worker Chen Si has been patrolling this bridge every day, watching out for people who’ve gone there to end their lives. With no formal training, he has saved over 300 people since he began; earning him the nickname the ‘Angel of Nanjing’.
“Today you met me, your big brother. Even if the sky comes crashing down, your big brother will watch out for you”, whispers Chen, his arm round a quivering and visibly shaken old woman. The two stand side by side, motionless, staring into the churning waters beneath them. Finally, Chen leads the woman away from the edge and onto the back of his moped: “I can help you…it’s all OK”.
In September 2003, having seen numerous news reports of people jumping to their deaths from the famous bridge, Chen decided to act. Equipped with nothing more than a handmade sign emblazoned with the words ‘Nothing is impossible’, Chen patrolled the bridge every weekend, counselling those preparing to jump, talking them down from the edge and saving them from certain death. “I wanted to help these people, I wanted to pull them back to life”, he explains.
Thirteen years and more than 300 saved lives later, and Chen’s voluntary mission is still going strong. Every weekend he travels to the bridge, intercepting and counselling potential jumpers. “I thought I should do it for at least a year, but a year later I felt I had really saved a lot of people.” But without any help or funding, Chen faces a constant struggle to juggle his humanitarian mission with his own attempts at a normal life. “I can’t help everyone because I still have to work during the week. I can’t be fired or else I won’t have the money to complete this mission.”
But despite this lack of assistance, the ‘Angel of Nanjing’ continues to save lives. His phone number is emblazoned along the bridge so that he is always reachable for those in desperate need. A recently-bought apartment in the city also allows for the extended care and housing of recent survivors. “He’s spoken to me every day since I came out of my depression…I can hold onto life now”, recounts one survivor, tearfully.
Almost 300,000 people kill themselves in China every year, accounting for one third of all suicides worldwide. The Angel of Nanjing is a moving portrait of one remarkable man striving to make a difference.
Balance Productions / Blue Bus Productions – Ref. 6591