Saddest, most upsetting – to that you can add awful, distressing and disturbing, and with a lasting effect on me.
It was 2002, and I was on a European driving holiday with my sister. The first night we stayed at Namur in Belgium, and the second day were heading to Strasbourg. The plan was to spend the day in Luxembourg, where I had been several times briefly while working as a guide but never had a proper look round.
At the heart of the city of Luxembourg is a gorge – The Petrusse Gorge – with a park in it, and it is spanned by a well-known bridge called Pont Adolphe. We decided to take a guided tour of the casemates – tunnels in the rock that have been used as a fortress, air raid shelters etc. over the years. So far so good. During the tour, having gone down through the casemates, we emerged in the park at the bottom of the gorge, and the guide was telling us a bit about the bridge. We were all standing looking up at the bridge as he was talking, with his back to it. As we watched, we saw a man walk along the bridge, climb over the wall, hang onto the edge for a couple of seconds, then let go. I can see it in my mind as clearly as if it had just happened. The sound as he hit the ground in the gorge a few seconds later is something I will never forget, followed (in my memory at least) by the most deathly, eerie stillness you can imagine. We were all too stunned to move for several seconds, but then the reality of what we had seen began to kick in.
I find it very hard to describe how I felt about what we witnessed that day. It was chilling and extremely disturbing. You couldn’t help but wonder who he was, and what had driven him to not only take his own life, but to do it in so public a way. For a number of years, the incident was something I thought about several times almost every day. Now, I still think about it fairly regularly, but nothing like that often.