“It seems suicide has been a thread that has woven its way through my life.”
On June 7, while driving through Mountlake Terrace, Penny Beauprey would be confronted with the horror of seeing someone attempt to take their own life.
The Des Moines woman and her mother were traveling northbound on I-5 on their way to Marysville to attend the high school graduation of Beauprey’s nephew. Approaching the 220th Street Southwest exit, an evening that should have been reserved for memories of a joyous family accomplishment suddenly turned dark.
“A driver in front of us had his hand out the window and was pointing up towards the sky,” Beauprey explained. “We looked up just after he had left the ledge on the overpass.” In that split second Beauprey had perhaps the clearest view possible of a 32-year-old man leaping onto I-5 off the freeway overpass. In fact, she had just changed lanes out of the lane that the man would land in.
Beauprey describes what she saw: “When this tragic event plays back through my mind I can see his hands above his head, the waves of his black hair, his red shirt, his pants and work boots. I see his feet touch the pavement and watch as his body crumples to the ground.”
“It looked to me like after his body came to rest on the pavement he was attempting to get up from the ground. Is that even possible?” Beauprey asks.
Even days after witnessing the suicide attempt, Beauprey says it is all still very clear in her mind. “What I remember most vividly was that he was not yelling or screaming as he descended. It was like he took a deep breath and was exhaling, like a sigh of relief. That’s the part that I keep seeing in my head.”
Beauprey continues, “It took a few seconds to register what we had just witnessed. Then there was a guy who got out of his vehicle almost immediately and went to his side. Another person got out of his vehicle and started flagging traffic.”
The Bellingham man, who authorities have only identified as “Mr. Le,” was transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle shortly after the incident with “life-threatening injuries.” But a few days later doctors upgraded his condition to satisfactory. He was still at Harborview a full week after the suicide attempt, but is expected to survive the ordeal.
Despite the good news of the man’s survival from a jump more than 25 feet above the freeway, the haunting images of the leap still persist for Beauprey.
“I have thought about it … I’ve thought about it a lot,” Beauprey said.
“It seems suicide has been a thread that has woven its way through my life,” she confided. “My best friend in high school is still in an unresponsive state because of an attempted suicide in 1987. A close friend of my younger brother committed suicide in his senior year of high school (in) 1990, and just last year a childhood friend took his own life.”
“Having borne witness to someone’s life in what I could only imagine as the deepest, darkest clutches of despair, there really are no words that I can find to adequately describe it.” Beauprey shared.
After crossing paths with individuals struggling with finding any hope in their lives, Beauprey had gained a deep perspective on the value of life. “Well, I believe life is so incredibly precious and should be celebrated every day we have the privilege to grace this world with our presence,” she said. “I think we often under estimate the significance we have on the world and the people we share it with.”
“The vastness of time and space on this planet fades away when we come to the realization that nothing we say or do returns void. A ripple is started with every action, or inaction, and word we put out there. Whether we know it or not, we have an effect on probably hundreds of people a day that we will never know by name.”
It is clear that Beauprey has thought about it … a lot.
— Story and photo by Doug Petrowski