At 8:45 AM on one of those hazy yet sunlit days of late autumn, a day which several Washington residents said was the finest of the season, a man quickly walked 80 feet out onto the city's 11th Street Bridge, climbed the guard rail, hung there for a moment, and then plunged headfirst into the Anacostia River.
What kind of person was he? Why did he destroy himself? And what could have prevented his death?
At the same moment, two miles away in the modern, red-carpeted Lisner Auditorium of the George Washington University School of Medicine some 1,800 physicians, nurses, and clergy were gathering to hear a dozen authorities on suicide discuss just such questions.
None of them knew, of course, of the death of the man on the bridge. But they did know that some 20,500 Americans killed themselves last year, and that suicide ranks tenth on the role