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Smith: Shaky finish to a brother’s long walk

  • Ian Cummins (photo: www.ianwalksamerica.com)

His brother’s suicide prompted Ian Cummins to walk west from Virginia Beach early in March and talk to people about dealing openly with, and paring back the stigma of, depression and other mental illness.

Six months later, Cummins, who’s 23, just reached the Bay Area. And he’s agreed to make an unscheduled stop in Santa Rosa.

He is set to speak to anyone who’s interested at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Farmers Lane offices of the Sonoma County chapter of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Cummins, who’ll complete his coast-to-coast trek in San Francisco, was just two years older than brother Ryan, a musician and tech wizard until his world closed in on him. Ryan was only 20 when he took his life last November in the family’s hometown near Pittsburgh.

His brother Ian was walking in Nevada when he was stung by word of the suicide of Robin Williams. Now in California for the first time ever, he’s steeling himself for his walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most beautiful man-made structures in the world and also a magnet for people silently tormented by mental illness.

“It’s very surreal, coming into this area,” Ian Cummins said Monday from, of all places, American Canyon.

He was asleep at a motel in Cordelia when the rocking commenced Sunday morning. “I was thinking, ‘who’s shaking my bed?’”

Cummins said his heart goes out to everyone who was injured, terrified or sustained property damage. Added the lifelong Pennsylvanian, “I’d be lying to say it wasn’t interesting to be in.”

Today he looks forward to speaking in Santa Rosa on Wednesday and to walking across the Golden Gate on Saturday. He expects to set foot on the bridge at about 9 a.m., if you care to cross with him.

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