4 years ago today on the 15th July 2012...
As we were arriving home from church, about a block away from our home, there was a large crowd gathering. I got Trish to drop me off and went to see what was happening. I noticed that a man was standing on the 8th floor ledge of a building. The windows behind him to gain access back into the building were closed. People were just standing around watching and taking pictures with their cell phones.
I phoned the emergency services and first spoke to the fire brigade who said "what can we do?". When I said "get out here and help the man", they put the phone down. I then spoke to the police. At this point the crowd had started shouting at the man... some even encouraging him to jump. The police then also put the phone down as they could not hear me over the crowd. I then tried them again and this time they agreed to come through but they could not tell me how long they would take. I realized I needed to intervene before the man jumped.
I went to some security guards, told them I was a social worker and asked them to come with me. We ran up the 8 flights of stairs and realized that he was on the ledge outside a locked flat. The flat tenant was not there so we broke the security gate and door of the flat and went inside.
I spoke to the man from a distance and then got closer to him. I tried to keep him calm and just kept sharing love with him. He had a large gash in his neck and he told me some people were trying to murder him and that he wanted to tell his story to the court. I told him I would help him to tell his story. About 20 minutes in to talking to him, the police arrived - they told me that they did not have a negotiator nearby and asked me to keep talking to the man. I shared with him God's love. We spoke for over an hour and I ended up praying with him. He was encouraged and even asked me to look him up on Facebook while he was on the ledge. As I looked at his profile on my blackberry, he seemed to relax and agreed to come in. He then came in through the window to the cheers of the crowd below.
As I walked with him to the ambulance most of the, by now massive crowd cheered in excitement, I could not believe, however, what other people were saying to him. They shouted at him saying that he was stupid to try to take his life and swore at him and generally insulted him. All the time I held the man.
In the ambulance, the very caring emergency staff treated his neck and then we took him to check his wounds at the emergency unit at the Hillbrow clinic. Some of his family members were there and they agreed to stay with him. The doctor I spoke to said that she would refer him to the hospital and admit him as she was concerned he would try to take his life again. I then left him in the care of the hospital staff and his family.
About 2 1/2 hours later, I received a call from a family member to say he had run away from the hospital and was threatening to jump again. A friend, Sifiso, and I rushed back to the building, but we were too late, he had jumped. His body was still breathing and so we touched him and spoke loving words and his life ebbed away. We spent a little while comforting his father and brother who were in disbelief about the events and then we returned home.
I am deeply saddened by all that happened today, but know that he experienced some love during all the trauma. These are difficult times with few workers to care for the hurting and broken in this city.
Rest well Delight Ndlovu!