More than 250 brightly-colored handwritten signs now line the Lorain Road Bridge in Fairview Park — messages of hope and positivity.
In the last five years, records from the Cleveland Metroparks reveal at least seven people have committed suicide from the bridge. Police have talked down dozens of others.
Michelle Biggins knows the pain all too well — her daughter Mindy was just 24 years old when she took her own life at the bridge in 2004.
“She just loved life and that’s why it was such a shock to all of us,” Biggins said. “We’re still in shock 14 years later.”
Biggins has spent the last four years working to get protective fencing put up on the bridge to prevent more deaths. It was supposed to be done this year, but there have been several delays.
Officials from the Ohio Department of Transportation tell News 5 that the project went up for sale twice, but the bids from contractors were rejected as they were well over the estimated cost. On November 15, the project was awarded to the Lake Erie Construction Company for more than $620,000.
According to ODOT officials, construction will begin on the project in early 2019, with a projected completion date of August 2019. The project will consist of protective fencing standing nearly 10’ feet tall, lighting, painting and other minor work, ODOT said.
But until that fencing is up, there is something else now in place to protect lives.
When Jen Stross — a complete stranger — heard the story about Michelle Biggins’ struggle, she knew she had to do something. She set about making handwritten signs with encouraging messages and the number for the suicide prevention hotline. She lamented them, then zip-tied 250 signs along the length of the Lorain Rd. Bridge.
“The thought of maybe just one person being affected by these signs is what really keeps me going,” Stross said.
The two women had never before and now, say they are bonded together by the bridge and their desire to help others.
Some of the signs read:
- “You have the power to say, this is not how my story will end.”
- “Never lose hope, storms make people stronger and never last forever.”
- “Never give up on this life.”
The number to the Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.