In July 2004, in the throes of postpartum depression, Tina Zahn sped to the top of Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge in Green Bay, Wis.
She got out of her car, walked to the edge of the bridge and jumped.
In a miracle of timing and sheer will, state trooper Les Boldt grabbed Zahn's wrist before she plunged into the water, pulling her back to earth and saving her life.
"Why I Jumped" is the story of what led Zahn to the bridge on that summer day and what happened after her suicide attempt. Compelling and full of suspense, "Why I Jumped" is a riveting true story of depression, redemption and hope.
Read an excerpt from "Why I Jumped" below:
July 19, 2004 Green Bay, Wisconsin
"Nine-one-one. What is your emergency?"
Tucking the cell phone under his chin, Daniel Zahn whipped the steering wheel to the left, making a sharp turn, cutting off the highway and across the median. His Durango bounced, skidding across the grass as he accelerated.
"My wife. She's going to jump!"
"I'm sorry, sir. Your wife is going to jump what?"
"The Tower Drive Bridge. She's going to jump off the bridge!"
His tires caught pavement, the car fishtailing a bit before lurching forward, nearly knocking his cell phone off his shoulder. He grabbed it. "You have to stop her!"
"Can you tell me where you are, sir?"
Frustration and rising panic surged through Daniel as he watched his wife's car up ahead of him weave through the traffic and disappear.
"On 29 . . . a couple miles east of Packerland. She's heading for 41."
"And where are you, sir?"
"Westbound on . . ."
No, that wasn't right. He'd made a U-turn after spotting Tina's car and was now racing to catch up with her.
"Eastbound on 29. I'm in a Durango. She's driving a white Oldsmobile Aurora."
"Can you see her?"
"No . . . Yes! She's getting in the left-turn lane at Packerland. I think she may be heading home."
Relief rushed over him, nearly snatching his breath away, but it was short-lived. He watched in disbelief as Tina whipped her car around waiting traffic and shot through the intersection.
"No! She didn't turn! She didn't turn! She's going for the bridge!"
Parked in a vacant grocery store lot, Sergeant Bill Morgan kept half an ear on the radio as he filled out paperwork. Suddenly he heard dispatch call him.
"Headquarters, four-Ida, Lincoln one-ninety-two."
Grabbing the mic, he checked in. "Four-Ida."
Immediately he heard Deputy Bill Roche check in as well.
"10-4, Ida. We have a 98 Olds Aurora, white. There is a suicidal female in the vehicle going ninety miles per hour at this time on 29 eastbound. Severely depressed. Subject's husband is on the line. She's coming up on Packerland."
Thirty-odd years of training kicked in as Sergeant Morgan turned his car onto Highway 29, coaching his deputies into their places like football players, well-trained team members knowing their part of the drill and carrying it out like the pros they were. He'd known of others who had jumped from that bridge and didn't survive. There was no way he was going to let the Fox River claim another victim if he could help it.
Just as he pulled his squad car up on the ramp to 41 to watch for the white Oldsmobile, an unmarked state trooper's car went screaming past, lights flashing and sirens blaring. He grabbed his mic as his foot hit the accelerator.
"I think her car just went by. Is someone behind her in an unmarked squad car?"
"10-4, Ida. State car is behind her. She's passing cars on the shoulder."
"I'm right behind him." Morgan glanced down at his speedometer as he hit his siren. Seventy miles per hour and climbing.
Eighty. Ninety. And still he couldn't catch up. And the ramp for Highway 43 was coming up fast. Hitting his brakes, he swung over into the right lane.
Suddenly dispatch barked into the radio. "State Police Officer Boldt is right behind her, but she isn't pulling over. She's increased speed. All units be advised. She is heading for the bridge."
The dump truck in front of Morgan slowed down for the treacherous S-turn on the exit ramp, either ignoring or unable to hear the sirens right behind him. Morgan moved a little to the left, hoping to get the truck driver's attention, but the effort was wasted. The truck merely slowed into the turn, leaving no room for Morgan to slide past him.
Slamming his hand on the steering wheel, he eased back to wait for his chance to get around the dump truck. He could only pray there was enough time. Once he hit the bottom of the ramp, it would be just over a mile to the bridge.
Seconds felt like minutes. As he monitored his deputies, received updates on the suicidal woman, and impatiently followed the dump truck, Bill Morgan felt his heart pounding into overdrive.
When they reached the bottom of the ramp, Bill glanced in his mirrors, saw the opening, and shot out onto Highway 43. Up ahead he could see Boldt's lights flashing. He pressed down on the accelerator, taking the squad car to the limit. Ninety. One hundred. One-ten. One-twenty.
He hit the bottom of the bridge and saw the state police car skid to a stop at the top of the bridge. "No. No. No." He glanced in his rearview mirror and saw another car—lights flashing—right on his tail.
He grabbed his mic. "We're on the bridge."
Slamming on the brakes, he skidded to a stop next to Boldt's car. There was no sign of the woman. And no sign of Trooper Boldt. His heart fell, and he reported back to dispatch. "She jumped!"
A Few Thoughts . . . If you're not prepared, the drama of this book could wear you out. It's my real-life drama, dealing with postpartum depression (PPD) and the traumas I have endured throughout my life. Many women who suffer from postpartum depression get over it quickly. They had a good childhood and no other psychological issues, and not long after giving birth, the chemical imbalance they experienced returns to normal. End of story. But if there are other emotional traumas that haven't been dealt with, the postpartum trigger can drop a huge emotional bomb into a woman's life.
I'm the first to admit that some aspects of my story are extreme. I didn't just have PPD. I had PPD as well as long-term sexual abuse by someone I trusted. I didn't experience only PPD and sexual abuse, but my mother rejected me when she discovered the abuse. I didn't experience only the PPD, the sexual abuse, and the rejection, but the residual effects of these things led to my making bad decisions, which in turn produced other hurtful events. It was a never-ending cycle that led me to the bridge that morning.
I'm not writing this book so that people will feel sorry for me. Rather, I want this book to give someone else hope, the hope that she can be a survivor and start living a happy and whole life. And while this book will firmly address the important issue of PPD, my problems were much bigger than that. They stemmed from childhood trauma, emotional triggers, unresolved pain, abandonment, marital dilemmas, and faith trials. But my story is also about many great friends, successes, setbacks, and finally a road filled with hope. My story is about a lifetime packaged with pain, and how through the gift of friendship, a strong measure of faith, a loving spouse, and some good medications, I have progressed from wanting to end it all to having much more to look forward to than I could ever have imagined.
What I want to say is this: if I can make it through all of the traumas I've gone through, you or your loved one can too! It wasn't easy. It didn't happen overnight. But the process was worth it, every painful step. And while I know that I am not yet 100 percent out of the woods emotionally, I also know that few people are. We all carry baggage that affects us in our adult years.
I've changed the names of many people in this book to protect their privacy. I've tried to tell my story to the best of my ability and recollection. For parts of the story, I've had to rely on others to fill in the gaps of my memory or for information I didn't know at the time the events were happening. For instance, when you read my account of the jump later in the book, I obviously didn't know the officers' names at the time they were pursuing me, but it is easier to tell the story now by identifying them by name.
If you're experiencing any kind of abuse or depression, it is essential for you to seek professional advice, whether medical, psychological, or legal. Nothing in this book is intended to provide specific advice for your situation. It is simply a telling of my own story.
I'm going to start where my story begins. And if you'll stay with me, you'll see how hope begins and how happy endings are possible. And I think you'll see that God did a miracle in me and in my family.
Because of the grip of a caring and brave policeman, I've been given a second chance at life. And because of that, I get to experience the joy of two precious children, my husband, and my friends, joy that I would have missed out on had I been successful in jumping two hundred feet to my death. You know some of the ending—I'm still here! But the story has a beginning, an all too familiar beginning. So let's start there, just a few months after my fifth birthday. I had been excited about starting school, but that excitement was wiped out, and each day at school became little more than a temporary reprieve from my suffering. When I was only five, all my joy, innocence, and naïveté were shattered, and life became a living nightmare.