Tag Archives: suicide

La Presse in the metro

Yesterday as I left my apartment to go to work, I was surprised when my paper wasn’t there to greet me. Instead, there was a copy of La Presse in its place. It’s not the end of the world if I don’t get a paper once in a while (it’s not like I pay for it, and I can just grab another one at work), and since my apartment is the only one of 11 units in the coop that gets any sort of newspaper subscription, I’m guessing it was just the delivery person throwing out the wrong paper.

The cover certainly piqued my interest (though I was aware of its contents having read a Montreal City Weblog item earlier that day): a special report on life in the metro.

Saturday’s stories include discussions with the various people you see in the hallways: buskers, shopkeepers, cleaners, Jehovah’s Witnesses, old people, and some of the less common sights like monks and blind people figuring out station layouts. There’s also a multimedia component online that includes some audio slideshows of interviews with other people.

Jean-Christophe Laurence also has a peek into the shift of a metro changeur, who says the most annoying thing about working there is having to be confined in a box and asking permission whenever you want to leave it.

But more interestingly, there are articles from Katia Gagnon on the workers who perform maintenance on the tracks between 2am and 5am when no trains are circulating and the power to the rails is cut, as well as those who monitor the tracks while the trains are running.

It reminds me of a piece that Alex Dobrota did for the Gazette three years ago in which he spent the night with maintenance workers.

Intervention des ambulanciers

Today, La Presse continues on a sadder note, talking about suicide in the metro. Hugo Meunier discusses the statistics, the most interesting of which is that 2/3 of people who throw themselves in front of metro trains survive, though they’re left with serious injuries and disabilities. He reports on a specific incident as an example (an article with a staggering seven anonymous sources, perhaps demonstrating how little people want to talk about it) and asks whether the STM, police and media’s policies of pretending suicides don’t happen is actually helpful at preventing copycats.

I’ve never actually witnessed a metro suicide (though I’ve seen the cleanup), so I can only imagine how disturbing it can be.

I can’t help but think that the statistic that shows you’re more likely to be seriously hurt than die attempting suicide in the metro would make a lot of people think twice about using that method to end their lives. Of course, then they’d just choose a method that wasn’t so public and we’d never know.

There was a suicide on the metro today

Low on fruits and veggies, I headed to the Jean-Talon market today to replenish. Since my legs have been mostly vegetables themselves from lack of exercise, I decided to walk the 2 km, enviro-green shopping bin in hand.

I was disappointed to find that my standard fruit store, Sami Fruits, was empty. Not closed, but empty. All I could see inside was a forklift. No worries, though, the market proper had more than enough to satisfy me (though I managed to snatch the last bag of seedless red grapes at $2/lb).

As I walked back to the metro (I’m not walking 2km with 20 lbs of fruit in tow), I noticed police cars and ambulances parked outside, and an unusually long line waiting for the 31 St. Denis. There’s only one reason these things would happen: Someone has died, or gotten seriously injured, in the metro.

The “incident” (as the police described it to curious onlookers) happened about 5:30pm today on the Côte-Vertu-bound platform of the orange line at Jean-Talon. By 6pm the entire station had been evacuated and passengers flooded adjoining streets, looking for cabs, calling friends for lifts and trying to get on buses that were woefully unprepared to take on the traffic of multiple metro trains.

At about 6:15, the station was partially re-opened, allowing people access to the blue line platforms. Service was cut completely between Berri-UQAM and Montmorency. Police officers standing guard in front of orange tape were instructing people on how best to get to their destination, repeating the situation to everyone who walked by: “Only the blue line is open.”

As I stood outside the ticket booth, I could get a narrow glimpse of the platform, where a train had stopped about halfway in the station. The nature of the “incident” became obvious: Someone had either thrown themselves or been pushed in front of the train at the end of the platform (where the front of the train would be travelling at its fastest relative to the platform), the train ran the person over and took about 75 metres to come to a complete stop.

When a fatality occurs in such a way, it’s not a simple matter to deal with (though the police sadly have had a lot of practice). First aiders have to intervene, the train has to be evacuated, the station has to be evacuated, police have to take photos and compile a report, the train itself has to be taken out of service, the driver has to be treated for shock, and the area needs to be cleaned up.

Finally, at 6:35, the orange line platforms were partially reopened (the far sides still being cleaned), and it was announced that the orange line was back in service. That turned out to be a bit premature, as there were still workers on the tracks. The next announcement clarified that service was delayed but not stopped. It wasn’t until 6:50 that the first trains, packed pretty tight, entered and left the station and service began to return to normal.

This kind of story isn’t one you’ll hear often in the media. Journalists don’t talk about them, for fear that reporting on them will encourage other, more extravagant suicide attempts. It’s a sensible policy, and no part of this is particularly newsworthy (beyond “metro shut down for an hour”).

I don’t know whose blood now sits between the rails at Jean-Talon, and I don’t particularly care to know the name of the person who decided to end his or her life in such a selfish way.

But I was delayed for an hour today, half of that standing in the cold. Just what did that accomplish?

Nothing. That’s sad.

Now I know how to commit suicide

The Gazette today has a very long feature article (inexplicably split into three parts online which, of course, don’t link to each other – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) about the life of Dawson College shooter Kimveer Gill, and seeks (and fails) to answer the question of why he did what he did. The piece is some feat for reporter Sue Montgomery, since Gill’s family has been long reluctant to speak to the media.

Meanwhile, Peggy Curran speaks to the family of Anastasia De Sousa, who was Gill’s lone fatality on Sept. 13, 2006. They too have been hiding from the media spotlight, and the article speaks of the stresses of ravenous reporters stopping at nothing to get a scoop.

Both articles are well-written and insightful, but a nagging feeling persists: De Sousa’s article is a page long, while Gill’s spans three pages. Had Gill simply shot himself or committed suicide some other way, he likely would have had no coverage whatsoever, due to newspapers’ policies of not giving publicity to suicides.

But because Gill went out in a blaze of gunfire, his suicide prompts an in-depth look at his life larger than most major politicians would receive. The uncomfortable message here is clear: If you’re going to off yourself, make sure to take a few people with you. Then nobody will forget you.

Hopefully no one will take that message to heart.