Adam Donnerstad
 

Adam Donnerstad

On the night of November 13-14, 2009, 15-y.o. Adam Donnerstad[a] committed suicide[b] by jumping off the south end of Västerbron[c] onto the rocks below.

2009-12-03 23:41

Adam Donnerstad, Västerbron

The first sign that something had happened on the bridge came when I was walking across it from Kungsholmen. A rose with a little card saying Love you! Get peace[1] was tied to the bridge at the midpoint of the span. That someone had died was obvious. I assumed that someone had jumped from the bridge here, photographed the flower and card and moved on. There seemed little else to do. Further toward the south end of the bridge is a set of stairs by which one can descend to Långholmen instead of going all the way to Södermalm. I knew there was a nice spot for photos right where the bridge's northern span (going from Kungsholmen to Långholmen) started.

Arriving there I noticed the memorial to Adam.

2009-12-04 00:42

Adam Donnerstad, Västerbron

2009-12-04 00:28

Adam Donnerstad, Västerbron

2009-12-04 00:36

Adam Donnerstad, Västerbron

The candles had long gone out, and the letters from his family and friends had been showered in rain that the plastic covers hadn't been able to keep out completely. I photographed the letters as well as I could. These photos are and will remain unpublished. They were taken as an opportunity to aid the historical record, and history is much better when everyone involved is dead and beyond the reach of the living. By that I am not saying that they contain any juicy bits - as a matter of fact, I don't really know what they contain. I snapped the pictures, checked them for sharpness, exposure and completeness and archived them. I will, however, agree that my doing so is a bit of a moral dilemma. On one hand:

  • These letters are not meant for me. They are meant for Adam, and perhaps to a certain extent to his family.

  • It may well have been the intent of the writers that the letters should be destroyed by the elements.

On the other hand:

  • They were lying wide open in a public space, with no attempt to hide them. Letters of condolence and grief after major disasters, such as 9/11[d], have been extensively photographed, and even published[e] despite the personal nature of them.

  • They could be of considerable value to some, perhaps Adam's family, in the future - but no attempt had been made, as far as I could see, to protect them.

  • I had no idea who Adam was, but decided to find out once I got back home. Maybe these letters would turn out to be of considerable value to me.

  • They are a matter of historical record. I don't know what future historians will have available to them, nor if they will even consider my photos worth their attention. I have no such delusions of grandeur. But a lot of what we know about the past is because someone bothered to write it down, or sketch it, or, in modern times, photograph it. One should not dismiss what we consider trivial today as not important to the future.

  • Coming here, seeing the rose tied to the bridge, and seeing the letters were all part of my experience. I have a right to preserve my memories, and these letters were now part of them.

  • The rain was destroying the lettering and the wind would eventually blow them into the water. If they were to be preserved, it had to happen now.

The only resolution I could think of was to do what it did: preserve and seal.

This entry was updated 2010-11-01.

Footnotes

2009-12-04, updated 2010-12-24