'Guardians Of The Gate' Recall Thwarting Suicides Ironworkers Kerry Davis and Ken Hopper have climbed around on the Golden Gate Bridge for 25 years. In that time, they've met many challenges — but the most troubling have come from people wanting to commit suicide by jumping from the tall span.

'Guardians Of The Gate' Recall Thwarting Suicides

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ARI SHAPIRO, host:

Time now for StoryCorps. Today's conversation comes from San Francisco and two men who work on that city's famous landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge. Ken Hopper and Kerry Davis have been a team for 25 years. Their work takes them up and down the iconic structure to do a lot more than just make repairs.

Mr. KERRY DAVIS: Where I work is on the Golden Gate Bridge. We climb in places where nobody else really goes.

Mr. KEN HOPPER: It's awesome. We get paid to climb around the world's biggest jungle gym.

Mr. DAVIS: To the very top is 746 feet.

Mr. HOPPER: You're walking on this three foot in diameter…

Mr. DAVIS: Cylinder.

Mr. HOPPER: Looks like a pipe.

Mr. DAVIS: Yeah.

Mr. HOPPER: And you hang on to this cable and the steeper it gets the tighter you hang on.

Mr. DAVIS: And the harder it is to climb.

Mr. HOPPER: Yeah, we have to wear a full body harness and we are tied off at all times.

Mr. DAVIS: We just look out for one another. If something's happening or has gone wrong, we have each other's back. We do all the stuff that nobody else wants to do.

One of the hardest things I'd say that we have to deal with - I guess we have to talk about it at some point - are people who come out to end their lives. For a time, if there was somebody over the rail…

Mr. HOPPER: …a person who's thinking about killing themselves…

Mr. DAVIS: …we were the first call. And we would have to set up with our harnesses and go out. Sometimes we talk; sometimes we just try to get ourselves close to that person to actually grab them.

Mr. HOPPER: I've got to the point where I walk up to them and I just flat-on say is: You're thinking about jumping off this bridge today? And I've had them truly answer, yeah.

Mr. DAVIS: They might be in tears or they might not be focused on anything else but the water. To see a person that's that low, that's really hard to see.

Mr. HOPPER: Yeah.

Mr. DAVIS: I remember one time a guy was talking to me, and he was a bartender in San Francisco and he couldn't find a job. And I asked him if I could climb over and talk to him. And he's one of the guys who said thank you.

Mr. HOPPER: There's really hardly ever any closure - many times we're worried -well, what happened to this guy? They took him to the hospital? Is he okay? And there's a lot of unanswered questions. But, you know, some call us Guardians of the Gate or the Angels of the Gate. That was nice to hear.

SHAPIRO: Ken Hopper and Kerry Davis, ironworkers on the Golden Gate Bridge for 25 years.

Their conversation was recorded in San Francisco and will be archived at the Library of Congress. Sign up for the StoryCorps podcast at NPR.org.

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