Elle n’est pas morte

An hour ago I saw a young woman jump off the Pont Neuf bridge into the River Seine trying to kill herself. I was standing in the middle of the bridge and had just pulled out my camera trying to decide if the light was right to make a photograph of the sun beginning to set when something on my right side caught my eye. She didn’t get up on the stone wall, she had a running start and in one bound was up and over.

At first I wasn’t sure what was happening. She was ten feet away from me when she jumped. I watched her fall, arms and legs still moving as she hit the water on her stomach. It was clearly not a dive. I continued to look down wondering what to do waiting for the lifeless form to surface.

I looked around at the others on the bridge with me, all of us helplessly no knowing what to do. Then suddenly she surfaced.

I saw a look of pain in her eyes as her head bobbed on the water. She said nothing as the current began to take her west down the Seine. She was conscious and when she was about 50 meters away I saw her begin to kick and stroke. But she was still nowhere near the river bank.

I could hear her begin to yell although I couldn’t understand what she was saying. I just continued to watch her head drift down river, still wondering what to do.

My heart was pounding. I was paralyzed. Finally after about two minutes a police boat sped to her and pulled her out of the water.

I stood there for a few more minutes looking to my right at the wall that she jumped from so close to me. It was then that I realized that at no point did I even think to jump in after her. Perhaps if when she surfaced, had she not been moving I would have. Perhaps I was waiting to see if she needed help.

Clearly she did, but probably not in the way I could have. Maybe she didn’t want my help.

She was a very pretty woman. Straight, shoulder length brownish hair. Probably in her late 20s or early 30s. She was dressed in jeans and a simple shirt. She did not have a purse or anything with her when she jumped.

It has been a very strange week here in Paris. I have photographs to post, but I think I just need to have a cigarette now and consider what I just witnessed.

Pictures another time. When my heart stops pounding.

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