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Mr. Chen, guardian of the suicide bridge

Mr. Chen’s helmet is red like the Chinese flag. Above is your phone number and the words “counseling”. On the chest of his yellow jacket the words “Chinese volunteer” and on the back “appreciates life, every day”, like a gospel. This man can be found every weekend on the great Nanjing Bridge on the Yangtze. So good allows us to know it.

This bridge is a monument from the Maoist era. 4 and a half kilometers long, 70 meters high, the construction is the pride of China. However, more than 2000 people are said to have ended their lives above the Yangtze. “And again, Mr. Chen said, we do not take into account all the bodies that were not returned by the river.”

For 17 years, the man has been going there every weekend. His mission: to try to save those who want to take the plunge. With his binoculars, he scans tourists and walkers. “I see suicide by their approach, he said, I recognize them from behind. Usually they are alone, like stray birds. Then I look into their eyes and see if they stare blankly.” A proven technique. Chen says he saved 360 people.

Scooter Guard Tours

This strange calling came to him September 10, 2003, First World Suicide Prevention Day. At that time, China was the world champion. On television we show the suicide of a man in his thirties. “It hadn’t jumped directly into the water,” Chen says, “and crashed onto the banks.” This image haunts him. A week later, he gets on his scooter for the first time, travels the 30 kilometers that separate him from the bridge, and begins his mission.

Since your ritual is immutable. First, he leans against a pillar to observe a heavy gaze, a movement of his feet, a sigh. Then he gets on his scooter and goes slow. “The bridge is gigantic, sometimes it is difficult to be in the right place at the right time,” he explains. I would say that I miss about 5 or 6 people a year. The last one I couldn’t save jumped into the opposite lane. I ran between the cars to stop him, but I was too late. I still have nightmares about it. “

When he has to recharge the battery of his scooter and his own, Mr. Chen retreats to a small canteen where a bottle of rice alcohol awaits him. “Alcohol is my treasure to save men,” he said. “I pour them two glasses and they start to tell their stories.” A sigh, and adds: “It also serves to make me forget.”

Bring hope to the desperate

In the course of the rescues, all the ills of today’s China emerge: a father ruined by the treatment of his daughter who died of cancer, victims of scams, battered women, expropriated small farmers … All the misery in the world, and every time he gets a little bit of it. He’s a little sad, the guardian angel. Your wife, Madame Chen, would like you to hang up your wings. “But I cannot stop, he assures. If I stop, there will be families suffering.”

During the week, Mr. Chen works as a handler. He spends a quarter of his meager salary renting a small three-bedroom apartment near the bridge. He calls it his “refuge for wounded souls.” In the drawers, no knife or scissors. On the wall, verses he invented: “We can let people leave us but we must never abandon ourselves.” Wounded souls do not become his friends, butu Lunar New Year give news.

“99% of the people I save are desperate, he says, but they won’t kill themselves if we give them any hope.”

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