The night that I jumped from a hospital window was truly the result of a buildup of stress that so altered my body chemistry. It literally took me out of my mind and made me do something that is literally not comprehensible.
My heart breaks for those who are suffering now. I truly would not wish those feelings on my worst enemy.
How did the idea for writing the book come about? I am not a writer and I never even thought about getting a book published – until the day that I read the article about Jordan in the Philadelphia Inquirer. January 20, 2008. I picked up the Philadelphia Inquirer at the local convenience store. The front page feature story was about Jordan, a popular, handsome 17 year – old teen from Upper Merion High School. He had jumped from a building and survived wth serious injuries.
I said to Trish, “I am not going to let this happen to one more family! This boy is telling my story.”
I asked her to call our three daughters over for a Sunday dinner. I told them that I was going to write a book . I asked them if they would each write a chapter. They were shocked. My son lived at home with us, so all four kids were there for dinner. Trisha passed around the newspaper article for them to read. They scanned it and laid it down.
Perhaps, it was too sad or just too much to absorb. I noticed that none of them read it like my wife did, sobbing throughout. Trish cried as she read each page and said, “John, I never knew you felt all of these feelings.”
When we each wrote our chapters, it was the first time that we had insight about how this event affected each family member. Many of my notes were on scraps of paper, or handwritten on lined notepads. I shared my ideas with Trisha and she encouraged me. Then while on breaks at work, I fleshed them out to make sense of all of my thoughts and feelings.
Some people warned me that it would be really hard for me to relive all of this and perhaps, I should forget all about the past and move forward. I certainly never wanted to be in the limelight, especially for this topic.
If my speaking out raises awareness, I am up for the challenge, and committed to doing something about it. I was nervous about doing this. I was reluctant to share the details. I wondered, “Will I be able to get another job if I go public with this?”
I told one person and then another. It became easier and I found that people were interested in my story. I wanted to make a difference. My depression taught me that.
I remembered my shattered spirit in 1999 and the toll of the tragedy on my own family. I knew that this project was more than about me. It was God guiding me to look at my life through a spiritual lens. And maybe to find a lesson of faith and trust through the event. It was as if God was saying to me, “John, you are not weak because of what you went through. You are strong.” God saved me and I believe that there are thousands of families that need to know that they are not alone.
The work is both satisfying and challenging. Every time that Trisha and I speak to a group, we learn more about each other. People ask questions and as I answer them, Trish gets a little glimmer of how painful life really was for me at that time. I hear her innermost feelings as she shares with the audience. This is not what I would have planned for my life but hopefully, I can be a voice of hope for someone else.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reporter interviewed me. I was nervous when the newspaper article about me ran. I remembered what I had felt like during the depths of my depression, like I was all alone.
One morning on the way to work, I planned to jump from a bridge. I couldn’t do it. pulled the car to the side of the road and inhaled carbon monoxide. My wife drove me to the hospital to continue our desperate search for help. They kept me for one night and discharged me in the morning.
A day later, I was admitted again, by ambulance. Mywife found me unconscious in bed. When I arrived at the hospital that day, my blood pressure was still very high. After several hours being treated in the ER, they decided to admit me for the blood pressure issue and they took me to the cardiology wing. Soon after I was settled into my hospital room, Trish came in. She stood patiently by the chair where I was sitting, and started showing me a photo album filled with pictures of my kids—kids that I love with all my heart.
Interspersed with the pictures were hand – scrawled red heart-shaped Valentine cards with paper lace, stickers highlighting birthdays, words in the margins, tickets from concerts, grade school report cards, reminders of involvements with our church’s service projects, and little reminders of all of the love I had in my life. A life of former happy memories. Katelyn and Kristen singing the Ave Maria on the altar at church. A baby cradled in my arms. Pictures on the beach. Class trips. Christmas lights. Birthday parties. Photos with the Easter Bunny at the mall. My son with his baseball cap and wiffle ball playing in the Youth Baseball program. Small cherubic faces giving me homemade gifts.
How would I ever recapture those moments that had brightened my life? All of the wonderful memories of my “old life” were there. I never thought I would hear “Batter up!” again.
I wrestled with so much doubt and believed the good times were gone forever. Trish told me that she and the kids loved me and that everything was going to be okay. I had lost faith in myself. I thought, “What is wrong with me? ”
I had tried talking to God and listening to God. Now, all help seemed remote and I felt so afraid. The life I had seemed to have dissolved – no interest in hobbies, reading mystery novels, driving to look at beautiful houses, or going to flea markets with the family. My mind could not penetrate the heavy fog that blocked all rational thinking. I felt trapped, raw, broken and mentally exhausted in this hospital room. I needed a break.
The pictures were meant to cultivate some feelings of happiness in me. The summer before, my girls had gone to repair a house for a mission trip. A photo of them beaming, with hammers and paint cans in hand, looked up at me. Instead, the photos began hammering away at me and made me feel all the more desperate, convinced that the best was all behind me now. The sadness I felt eclipsed everything in that album.
Then, Trish left the room to phone her mother. She wanted to tell her that I was doing fine and ask her to bring me a pair of shoes. Robin and Katelyn were out with their friends and the two younger ones were at Trish’s mother’s house. Alone in my hospital room, I reflected on my loving family, thinking that the best of life was now in the past and could only haunt me. My twisted thinking led me to imagine that they would commit me to an insane asylum, a place I had heard about in movies.
The thought terrified me. I wasn’t thinking clearly and even said to Trish, “They’re not going to kill me, are they?”
Where were these torturous thoughts coming from? This wasn’t me. I had a world-class wonderful family and a great life, but it all seemed to be crumbling beneath me. At that point, nothing was able to shine through the darkness in my mind.
I was stunned about all of this, more like numb, gripped with a doubt that offered no hope. I looked at the window, which seemed to be calling me, challenging me. I saw the same thing I had seen in the exhaust pipe of my car—a way to end my suffering. I arose from the chair, and approached the window. The raw throbbing in my head had dulled my thought process; I acted without much thought beyond the drive to escape.
Numb from everything but pain, I looked down. I can do it, I thought. I will do it. I jumped , relieved that the pain would finally go away. It did not. The descent was frightful; the impact was heavy, obliterating.
When I jumped, I had no idea how high up I was. I didn’t know whether I was 1000 feet above the ground or 50. I have been told since then that I fell 40-45 feet, and landed in a cement window well, or—as the ambulance attendant called it—a “viaduct.”
I think I may have hit the side of the building on the way down. I heard that there was one eyewitness in the parking lot. I wish that I could talk to that person and find out what really happened. .