The First Time I Responded to a Suicide Attempt

Front door,

Hanging askew.


By one rusted hinge.


Open slightly,

A wedge of yellow sunlight.

Like a strip of carpet,

On dusty plank flooring.


Gun in hand,

Flashlight in the other.

The unknown,

It’s always the worst.


Push and shove,

Door won’t budge.

“I heard a shot,

but I was too scared to look.”


Is he in there?”

“Stay back, please.”

Another shove,

and it opens.


Standing to side,

Chest heaving, sweat trickling.


No answer.


Only silence,

And my own pounding heart.

“Frank …

I’m here to help. You okay?”


Flies buzzing, darting in and out.

Deep breath.

Quick peek,

A minimum target.


Blood spatter,

Lots of it.

Tissue on ceiling,

On wall too.


Sitting on floor,

With shotgun in lap,

“Frank, you okay?”

Useless words.


“Is Daddy all right?”

“Go back in the house.


I’ll be there soon.”


Hand over her mouth,



But hurry.”


Squeeze through door,

Holster weapon.

Not needed,

Not this time.


Friends since high school,

Twenty years, or more.

No face,

No sign of life.


Why, Frank?

Great kids.

Great wife,

Nice house.


Good job,

Wonderful life.


Radio crackles.


“Send M.E.,

and paramedics.

No particular order.”

Doesn’t matter.


Chest moves,

A wet breath.

A bubble,

From somewhere.


Finger twitches,



Another breath.


“Hold on Frank.

Help’s on the way!”


Grab radio.



Victim is alive.


Victim is alive.”


Siting on floor,

Holding Frank’s hand.

Sirens drawing closer.

“Hey Frank. Remember when we …”

This incident was the first time I’d responded to an attempted suicide call. Sadly, it would not be the last.

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States.