WATCH: Iconic photo more than attempted suicide for Oakland man, former officer


On March 11, 2005 Kevin Berthia hit rock bottom.

Listen to the latest episode of "Bay Current" below.

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He was suicidal at the Golden Gate Bridge. Then found a new lease on life.
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He decided to go to the Golden Gate Bridge to end his life, but what happened on the bridge that day changed his life forever.

"I had just become new father, just recently lost my job," Berthia explained. "So many things. All the things I didn't handle in my life end up coming up on that day…and I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I was tired of living a lie, keeping this mask on pretending like everything was fine. Everything wasn't okay and I just got overwhelmed and I didn't see a way out."

Berthia grew up in Oakland and had never been to the iconic span.

He didn't even know how to get there and had to ask for directions.

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Iconic photo more than attempted suicide for Oakland man, former officer
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"I was banking on whoever I asked for directions they'd say ‘Why do you want to go? No one ever asked," he told KCBS Radio on the Golden Gate Bridge last month, as heard on KCBS Radio's "Bay Current" on Monday. "I considered it as a done deal and I saw it as a sign."

California Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Briggs, who became known as the "Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge," spotted Berthia just as he leapt over the railing. "If I had 50-foot hands to reach out and grab him. That's what I felt like," Briggs said. "I yelled and he reached out and caught that rail, swung around and hit it, But I didn't know that he reached out and caught that rail. I thought he was gone."

What happened next was captured in this haunting photo, later seen around the world.

For 92 minutes, they talked.

"You have to understand something," Berthia said. "I never opened my eyes once. I never knew he was a cop and I never knew he was white. So this whole conversation we had…I never knew anything about him. If I would have opened my eyes conversation, the conversation would have been a little different. Where I'm from – Oakland, California – how I looked at law enforcement at the time was completely different from how I look at law enforcement now."

Eventually, Briggs and another officer helped Berthia back over the railing and took him to the hospital.

Eight years later, the two reconnected when Berthia was asked to give Briggs a public service award in New York. That's when Berthia believes Officer Briggs saved his life again.

"By 2013 I was up to 22 failed suicide attempts," Berthia added.

He soon realized he wasn't alone and that telling his story on stage helped other people.

Now, Berthia is a public speaker and a passionate advocate for suicide prevention and started the Kevin Berthia Foundation.

Two men were forever bonded over one act at the Golden Gate Bridge..
Two men were forever bonded over one act at the Golden Gate Bridge.. Photo credit Matt Pitman/KCBS Radio

"My whole life, I felt alone," he said. "I’m an African American man from an African American community who doesn’t talk about mental health or suicide prevention."

Briggs retired from the CHP in 2013 after responding to hundreds of suicide calls on the Golden Gate Bridge. He's now a mental health and suicide prevention speaker. "The look in people's eyes when I'd look at them over the rail I'd see some hope. But they didn't know how and (were) tired of living in agony. That's what drove me to do this job better."

Berthia and Briggs might come from two different backgrounds but say they were brought together on the bridge for a reason.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Matt Pitman/KCBS Radio