When a falling human body hits concrete, it lands with a bang. Not a thud. That’s why I thought the man lying on the sidewalk outside my dorm room had been shot.

The sound startled me awake on a lazy Saturday morning. Then someone screamed.

I looked out the window, saw the body, and called 911. Once, twice, maybe more. It was busy, but I finally got through. The paramedics came and took him away.

It wasn’t until later that we discovered he’d jumped from the roof at the top of our 11-story dorm, UCSD’s Tioga Hall. When the cops came to our suite, we learned that he was our neighbor.

Most of us didn’t know Todd very well. He was just the blond guy in the double room at the end of the hall who’d play his guitar and sing. One time we chatted in his doorway about whether Johnny Carson was funny — he said no, I said yes. That’s all I remember about him now.

No one realized Todd was wracked by severe emotional pain. No one saw him write a suicide note, tear it up, cut his wrists and head to the roof.

Afterward, Todd’s dad came down and took us all out to dinner. He was blond too. He cried. A couple guys from our suite went to Todd’s funeral in Palo Alto because it seemed like the right thing to do.

At the funeral, someone read his suicide note, which described his hurt and ended with this line: “It’s as simple as this. You see, I got it before it got me.”

Todd was the fourth person to die after jumping from the Tioga Hall roof. UCSD officials sent out a letter to our parents saying some students are mentally ill. What can you do?

But they did do something: They hired an architect to design a barrier for the roof, where people like to sit in the sun.

Tioga Hall is still there, 21 years later, and so is the barrier. It’s clear, so you can still look out and enjoy the view. 

If the barrier had been there before, maybe Todd would have gone somewhere else to end his life. His grieving father told a reporter that he would have done just that.

Or maybe he’d still be around today, turning 40 like the rest of us, worrying about gray hair and extra pounds and never thinking a leap from a roof might make things better.


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