Imagine watching this go down from your office window:
It looked like just another of the flamboyant stunts many Houstonians had watched before -- a man scaling the sheer glass wall of the 900-foot Williams Tower during the early morning rush hour.
Then, as traffic roared past on the West Loop and Galleria employees began arriving for work, what a growing crowd of onlookers had viewed with amusement or annoyance turned suddenly tragic.
At 7:48 a.m., Ryan John Hartley, a 20-year-old University of Houston student skilled at rock-climbing but under treatment for mental problems, appeared to shove himself away from the wall and then plunged to his death. He had reached the 26th floor of the 64-story building.
Based on "investigators' findings," the death was classified as suicide, said Dr. Dwayne Wolf, deputy chief Harris County medical examiner.
Wolf would not discuss those findings. Houston Police Department spokesman Joe Laud said a note with "political content" was found near Hartley's body. He would not reveal the note's content, but said it made no mention of suicide.
Hartley's family issued a statement Monday, saying he "was seeing a psychologist for an undiagnosed mental disorder."
The statement, which came from the Rev. Chris Seay of Ecclesia Church, also said "Ryan was an accomplished rock climber and instructor, as well as a gifted vocalist and student at U of H."
Hartley's body apparently remained in place for some time as police waited for the Medical Examiner to arrive. Wasn't it bad enough that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people had to witness this tragedy unfold in front of them?
How does one begin to deal with having witnessed a suicide?