In July of 2014, I was grieving the loss of my father, who died unexpectedly in September of 2011. Nearly three years later, I was still meandering through life aimlessly, missing my Dad and being really, really angry that he was taken away from me.
I was a new mom, my daughter only 10 months old when my father had his fatal heart attack. She would not remember the great man he was. He would never see her grow into the amazing person she is. These sad realities played in my mind on repeat, which made writing, creating and dreaming far-fetched concepts I just couldn’t wrap my head around.
But on July 7, 2014 that changed.
On that day, my friend who works in the telecom industry, called to tell me about an accident that happened in Harrison County Kentucky, involving a 28 year old man named Joel Metz. Joel, a telecommunications tower climber, which is someone who climbs cell towers to build, inspect, maintain and repair the structures and equipment for cell phone service, posted a picture on Facebook of his breathtaking view atop a 240 ft. telecommunications tower. A cable supporting the 1,800 pound antenna snapped, severing Joel’s arm and decapitating him. Joel’s headless body hung in its harness for close to five hours before rescue was able to get it down.
I can still remember the visceral reaction I had. I couldn’t sleep that night. The next day, I couldn’t stop thinking about the accident, Joel’s family, his four sons and how something so heinous happened to someone just doing their job. His sons still needed him much like I still needed my father yet both were gone. Joel’s funeral was held on July 10th, my birthday. I felt this strong connection to a man I had never met and something inside needed to make sure his death wasn’t in vain.
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and I found myself searching out any information I could find about this pack of traveling gypsies. It baffled me that in this technological era, where cell phones are practically glued to every human’s hand, most people do not know or care about the men and women who make using them possible.
The sad reality became transparent…in the race to advance technology, and build bigger and better networks, men and women who climb, are paying with their lives.
I took to Facebook, naturally, on a mission to find tower climbers to talk to. My hope was to find a handful of individuals who would allow me to pick their brains, hear about their experiences, their fears, family life and job satisfaction. Quickly, I was hooked and knew I had to make a film about these men and women and their world up high.
HIGH started as a film concept and has grown into a movement. I began this project as a writer and a filmmaker, but now, I’m a tower climber advocate too. Climbers and their families thank me all the time for all that I do for them, not realizing all they have done for me. At a time in my life when I had lost my voice and will to create, tower climbers and a tragic tale inspired me to find both.
HIGH the film is my tribute to all the fallen climbers, their families and for all the climbers today, who put their lives on the line every time they get up and go to work. I hope that after seeing my film, some of the grumbles of frustration over temporary smartphone outages will be tempered with empathy and compassion for what it takes to maintain these modern day conveniences.
HIGH the Movement is an initiative to bring to light the many dangers that tower climbers encounter and experience. The goal is to not only educate the public, but to support the community itself, by pushing for better safety regulations for the men and women who climb.