Our first reaction to tube suicides shouldn’t be calling the victims selfish
Three people died on the Underground after New Year’s Eve – and I saw one of them
In the first nine hours of 2016 three people died on the Underground. One of them, at around 3:20am, was a young woman in her 20s at Clapham North station in South London, where I stood about 15 feet away.
She was wearing a red dress, with a black bag across her body and black shoes. She had dark hair. To my left, she looked like anyone coming home from a house party – from celebrating New Year’s Eve. I saw a red flash out of the corner of my eye, and heard an ear piercing scream from another bystander as she jumped. There were about 20 people on the platform.
But the first thing I heard shocked me. As one group crowded round a girl who was visibly shaking and crying, one girl who was walking past with her boyfriend proudly yelled: “Oh my God, that’s so selfish, how the fuck are we all going to get home?”
I was crying, all of my friends were crying, shaking or sitting on the floor outside the station. I couldn’t stop thinking “what was going through her head? Why did she feel her only way out was to jump in front of a moving train on the start of a new year?”
The frightening part about people’s reactions to tube suicides is the conviction they say it with. It’s a sort of proud boast about being a selfish, busy Londoner who has loads to do. To them it’s survival of the fittest. Saying “it’s so selfish” is like a punchline to a joke – maybe if the class clown says it loud enough everyone will clap.
If we first think of how we’re getting home from a Clapham house party, where playing beer pong with a few Americans was the highlight, what does that reaction say about us? Where’s the text to see if your friends in the area are ok? Have you called your old mate from uni who you knew was going through a tough time? Your parents? Siblings?
Police haven’t confirmed whether it was an accident or suicide, but given how it happened, I have no doubt this was a jump or that it was planned. It didn’t look like she was pushed, it didn’t feel like she did this on a whim, or maybe that’s my way of rationalising it. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Those few seconds has played on my mind ever since. The tragedy, and the reaction.
Just because it happens a lot, doesn’t give you an excuse. Our attitudes towards tube deaths are one of the most embarrassing things about London.