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 THE STORY OF HOPPER'S HANDS - At an old military post called Fort Point tucked under the foot of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, a small sign hangs from a chain-link fence where the sidewalk ends. It reads “Hopper's Hands."  Throughout the day, a steady stream of runners and bikers flow through the parking lot to touch, high-five, or fist-bump the hands before turning around and running or riding back the way they came. Tourists, meanwhile, pause from snapping photos and watch curiously.  As odd as it may appear to unknowing onlookers, this ritual is a beloved tradition among Bay Area runners and bikers. But while the beautiful “Hopper’s Hands” route itself – winding northwest along the waterfront with spectacular views of Alcatraz, the bridge, and the Marin Headlands – is one of the most popular in San Francisco, the true story behind the sign remains a mystery to many.  The answer to mystery is one that Golden Gate Bridge officials don’t often discuss: the sign’s connection, however unintentional, to the issue of suicides at the bridge, which has the most of any site in the world.  Worth repeating... In the world. Since its opening in 1937, nearly 1,600 people have jumped to their deaths from the world-famous span – that’s about one person every two or three weeks – according to the Bridge Rail Foundation, a nonprofit advocating for a suicide net.  According to an article that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Ken Hopper has been among the ironworkers called upon at a moment's notice, to try to rescue prospective jumpers; at that point (2001) he’d estimated he’d talked or wrestled down 30 people, and lost two. According to local runners and various online accounts, many people associate the Hopper’s Hands sign with the man’s real hands, reaching out to deter a tragic soul from ending his or her life by plunging some 220 feet into frigid San Francisco Bay.  Hopper says he didn’t intend for the sign to be symbolic in such a way. “The story in the Chronicle came out right after the sign was put up, and people found that and tied them together,” he explains. “But when I put those hands up and the [dog] paws [below], that was the furthest thing from my mind. It’s lots of things to many people. Except that some people have made it a good thing, about reaching out and stopping those people or whatever.”

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