NEW YORK—Thousands jumped off the Empire State Building Thursday as part of the famed skyscraper's 12th annual No-Hassle Suicide Day, during which anyone can take the iconic 86-story plunge without having to worry about being stopped, fined, or serving time in prison.
Calling this year's event a "resounding success," building officials said that once the final body had hit the pavement, No-Hassle Suicide Day 2011 would go down as the most well attended in history, with jumpers coming from all 50 states and all corners of the globe to take advantage of the lax building security and the New York City Police Department's promise not to talk anyone down.
At press time, 18,755 people had jumped off the Empire State Building.
"For 364 days of the year, security on our observation deck is tight, and any person who threatens to jump is typically tackled and arrested before he gets a chance to climb our safety fence," building owner Anthony Malkin told reporters, while behind him as many as 15 bodies could be seen falling through the sky. "But on the third Thursday of every June, we open up our doors, lower our guardrails, and let people jump—no questions asked—off one of the most famous buildings in all of the world."
"So if you've lost your will to live and want the ultimate suicide experience, come on down to the historic Empire State Building," he added. "Tickets are only $15."
Citing high unemployment, the recent wave of natural disasters, an increase in home foreclosures, and a general rise in population, city officials said they had expected a large turnout, but they hadn't expected such an international presence or having to extend jumping hours past 9 p.m. Sources confirmed that Wednesday night—nearly 14 hours before the first body careened onto Fifth Avenue—a line of despondent individuals began forming at the building's entrance, and by morning it stretched 15 city blocks.
Jumpers were assured that the 86th floor observation deck would remain open even if wind conditions turned dangerous, and that they would have the option of falling onto the hood of a car for an extra $20.
In addition, the skyscraper's metal detectors were reportedly removed in case anyone wanted to bring a gun and blow his brains out, whether on the elevator ride up or during the six-second trip down.
"I've been looking forward to this day for a while," said 42-year-old Kevin Washington, who added that he really didn't want to talk about why he was jumping off the Empire State Building but confirmed his plans to go through with it. "I actually tried to jump off it about eight months ago, but I got caught and had to go through this whole mental evaluation thing. It was a real pain. I was told to come back on Suicide Day when it would be smooth sailing."
"Well, looks like I'm up," he added. "See ya."
Started in 2000, No-Hassle Suicide Day has quickly become a signature New York City experience. In addition to the thousands who leap to their deaths, even more enjoy the festivities by coming out to watch the barrage of falling bodies, buy an "I Didn't Survive No- Hassle Suicide Day" T-shirt, or eat a "Suicide Dog," which is a hot dog with ketchup and hot sauce.
In what has become one of the event's long-standing traditions, members of the clean-up crew often allow children to operate the power washers used to spray off the concrete after each set of 200 suicides.
"Normally we wouldn't allow it, but for an extra $100, a suicidal person can climb to the top of the building's spire and jump from there," said building superintendent Stephen Fitzpatrick, adding that ankle weights were also available for purchase in the gift shop. "On No-Hassle Suicide Day, the motto around here is: No one can stop them but themselves."
"This is just another way to celebrate all that New York City has to offer," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters. "Typically I don't take part in the festivities. But I've basically done everything I can do as mayor, I'm not running for president, and as of late I've been asking myself, 'What's the point of all of this, anyway?' And the truth is, there is no point. There's really no point at all."