Reprinted from "Trauma and Victimization" issue of Visions Journal, 2007, 3 (3), pp. 16-17
Vancouver's Celebration of Light fireworks festival will never be the same for me again. The memories I have of July 29, 2006, when China put on a spectacular fireworks demonstration, are of chaos, screams, sirens wailing - and the lifeless body of a young man I had just met a few nights before. He was lying in a pool of his own blood after jumping off the 18th-floor rooftop of my friend Alex's apartment building in Vancouver's West End.
It all began on Wednesday, July 26, 2006. A few friends had assembled at Alex's apartment for drinks and planned to watch the Italy's fireworks demonstration that night from the rooftop terrace. Most of the people knew each other. Timmy came later that night and brought his new boyfriend Jun, whom he had met a couple of weeks earlier. Jun, a handsome smiling young guy, joked around with all of us that night. He had only been in Canada for a few months studying English. He was from Brazil, which is where Timmy was from as well. The fireworks were amazing; we all had a lot of fun.
On Saturday the rooftop was packed with people from the apartment building and our group of friends to watch China's fireworks display. I had heard that Timmy and Jun had arrived and were on the roof with us, but I hadn't seen them. At the end of the show, there was a lot of commotion, with people trying to get down from the roof.
Suddenly I heard my friend Kirk screaming for someone to call 911, screaming that someone had jumped off the roof. He then yelled, "Brian, get over here now and take care of Timmy!"
Timmy was on the ground quivering and crying uncontrollably. I jumped over the fence on the roof, ran to Timmy and held him tight. I was in a daze. I continued to hold onto Timmy, who at this point was in shock. He was crying and mumbling that Jun had pulled away from him forcibly, run up to the edge of the roof and jumped to his death.
Everyone was yelling and screaming. Police, ambulance and fire sirens blared. Helicopters circled above with their searchlights focused right on us. It was as if we were all in a movie, or a dream; as if none of it was real. All I could feel was horror. How could anyone jump off of an 18-storey building? How could Jun decide to die in such a violent way?
Slowly we got up and I took Timmy downstairs to find the police. Over the next two hours, in Alex's apartment, we all gave our statements to the police. They seemed unsure of what to do. There was so much chaos. And they seemed to be treating it as a homicide. We were stunned. We were even more stunned when they told us they couldn't provide us with counselling. We would have to deal with this horror on our own. Everyone was upset, crying, questioning, confused and angry.
SAFER (Suicide Attempt Follow-up, Education and Research) is a BC-wide service that works to reduce suicide risk among those in crisis, assist family and friends who care about them, and promote healing among those bereaved by suicide. People with concerns relating to suicide can receive crisis related resource intervention by telephone, and anyone bereaved by a suicide death can access one-on-one counselling or support groups. Call 604-675-3985.
No one could understand what drove Jun to such a tragic act. He was so young, vibrant and alive on the Wednesday when I first met him. How could he have done this to all of us? How could he have left us with this sadness, with all the unanswered questions? How could he have suffered so deeply and so alone, without trying to find a solution to whatever demons were inside him? What a tragic situation this was for us, Timmy, Jun's friends and, especially, Jun's family.
We later found out that Jun had left a note at Timmy's apartment. He had recently come out. He wrote about how being gay was causing him a lot of turmoil. He was unsure how to deal with his feelings - toward himself, toward Timmy. He didn't know how to deal with his family back in Brazil.
I felt so sad that he felt he had to endure this torture alone. I, too, have had some tough times and many times didn't feel I could go to anyone for support or help.
Today, Jun is still in my thoughts, but they are not sad thoughts any more. I think I will always have a helpless feeling when I think of him, because he never gave any of us a chance to help him. I can only hope that he's in a better, safer place.
About the author
Brian is the Executive Director of Jessie's Hope Society, which is a member of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information