The two Upper Valley women who recently distributed handwritten notes aimed at keeping people from jumping to their deaths at Quechee Gorge are putting up new messages along the bridge railings. Just two weeks into the project, say they've already heard from people that the notes are making a difference.
Jessica Keene, shown here with her daughter Amaree, lost her mom to suicide when she was only 11. She and friend Jessica Arruda want to spare others a similar pain.
Jessica Keene, a Lebanon woman who as a child lost her mother to suicide, said one of her husband's friends had posted a picture of a note affixed to the Route 4 bridge to social media.
"He's often posted 'I give up' or 'I can't do this anymore," Keene said Wednesday morning. "I think the notes really helped him," she said, adding that she had reached out to the man "to let him know I'm here for him."
News of the women's effort, which was inspired by a similar campaign in Great Britain, has reverberated across new and traditional media in the region. The words of hope are reaching far beyond the locals and visitors who walk across the span stretching across the 165-feet-deep gorge.
"I have a close friend whose been struggling with severe major depression and with suicidal thoughts," said Arruda. "She reached out to me and thanked me for doing this. She struggles a lot. I do the best I can to support her."
The women say they are this week replacing notes damaged by recent heavy rains and working on the best way to laminate them and make them durable. While some had raised questions about whether town and state officials would object to the notes — which are hand-written on note cards and affixed to the bridge railing with zip ties — they say they've heard no objections.
Families visiting the gorge have used the notes as a springboard for important conversations about the need to reach out when a person is in pain. Ashlee Brown visited the bridge with her two daughters recently and used the notes to reinforce a point she often makes: "I'm always trying to tell them, 'Talk to people. Don't hold it in.' "