Ten years ago, the first person the man on the bridge saw was a teenage boy. That boy ran to help, since his mom was a priest, his dad was a policeman, and he believed you should help people when you can. The boy started talking to the man. Kindly, the man said he had two kids and shared the worst thing about being a parent: you can do everything right for weeks, but people will judge you for the one thing you do wrong. “Parents are defined by their mistakes.”
It’s possible this boy is the younger police officer, given that his dad is a policeman. If this is true, this passage reveals that the younger officer wants to help people. The man’s insistence that parents are judged by their mistakes suggests that he thinks parents aren’t judged all that fairly. As the narrator has already made clear, everyone makes mistakes—so why are parents specifically judged so harshly?
The man continued. He told the boy he’d had a great job and then set up his savings in a real estate investment company. This was so his kids wouldn’t have to work so hard when they get older. He explained that he, like everyone else, was just pretending he knew what he was doing. His kids believed it, for a while. And then there was a financial crisis, a New York bank went bankrupt, and the man lost everything. The man drove his teenage kids to school, and his heart broke when they rolled their eyes at his “I love you.” Then, he climbed onto the bridge. The boy believed then that he was going to save the man—but the man jumped anyway.
The man makes it clear that he, probably much like the older officer, cares about his kids. He just wants to help them have a comfortable life. However, he’s unable to do this in the face of big global events that affect everyone, in this case the Great Recession that began in the U.S. in 2007-08. Realizing his kids don’t think he’s a saint—they rolled their eyes when he told them he loved them—is, this passage shows, enough for this man to decide that he no longer has anything worth staying alive for.