GILL, Mass. (WWLP) – Construction begins Friday to install protective screening along the French King Bridge in Gill.

Drivers should expect lane shifts and road work along the bridge for the next several months. Drives are asked to reduce their speed when traveling through the work zone. Construction may vary on a day to day basis.

“I’m hoping that they get down here, see the barriers and see someone is truly looking out for them,” said Erving Fire Chief Philip Wonkka. Erving Fire Chief Philip Wonkka needed to take a pause after saying that. He said conversations about putting up barriers have been going on since he started at the department in 1997, adding this after he composed himself, “I guess my feelings are more for the families that have lost people to the bridge. (pause) It’s heartbreaking.”

Stacy Hamel’s son, Bryan, jumped off the bridge in 2018. She said with this project starting, she’s just past the cautiously optimistic phase that this will happen but this is what she wants people to understand, “The vast majority of individuals in crisis that consider taking their own life, if they’re interrupted or redirected they don’t try again.”

Stacey said the call to put barriers up existed long before she took part in the fight.

With the barriers going up, signs along the bridge won’t be the only thing preventing people from taking their lives on the French King Bridge, but Hamel said she wouldn’t call this a victory.

“I’ll consider it a little bit of closure for that particular chapter. There’s no other word to describe that. There’s no closure to grief. There’s no closure to losing someone. There’s just being able to accept it as part of your life and moving on. Not moving on away from it,” said Hamel.

Stacey said she wishes Bryan could see his two young children now. He would be turning 40 in October.

Senator Comerford and Representative Whipps have been working to make these barriers a reality for the last few years, hoping this will offer some sort of resolve for the families impacted.

If you’re struggling with mental health, don’t be afraid to reach out to these resources.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Samaritans Statewide Helpline: 1-877-870-4673