On a clear and crisp autumn day, the cast and crew of As the World Turns ventured out of their Brooklyn studio and headed south to Philadelphia. Once there, the show took over Philadelphia City Hall with all the glitz and glamour of a Hollywood production -- and all the drama of a daytime soap. More than 300 feet in the air, perched on a ledge of the masonry building, one of the nation's founding fathers prepared to take a literal flying leap.
In a strange collision of fact and fiction, the storyline harkened back to a dramatic situation that unfolded at Philadelphia's City Hall nearly four years ago to the day. On October 20, 2005, all eyes in Philadelphia turned skyward as City Councilman Rick Mariano climbed to the top of the City Hall tower and threatened to jump. Mariano was talked down and safely escorted away.
So as a team of squad cars and ambulances raced to the courtyard of City Hall, passersby looked to the roof and feared that another dangerous situation might be unfolding seven stories up. But why would Ben Franklin want to take his own life? That was the question that electrified onlookers.
A young woman heading back to the office from her lunch break spent about ten minutes watching the tense drama unfold. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a large placard with the words "As the World Turns" written on it. Suddenly, she realized that the discoverer of electricity wasn't really threatening to jump. It was all a staged production for a soap opera. A few unprintable words later, and the woman marched her way back to work.
Another woman, also looking a bit upset, marched her way past the production table and directly into the path of Emmy-nominated As the World Turns star Michael Park (Jack Snyder).
"Why were you beating up Ben Franklin?" the woman asked with the defensiveness of someone trying to protect the last bite of a cheesesteak.
"I wasn't beating Ben Franklin. I was saving him!" Park replied with a smile.
The woman, somewhat dubious, nodded her head as Park explained what had really gone down on the rooftop of City Hall.
Park chose his words carefully because at the time of the on-location shoot, viewers had not yet seen the tragic death of Brad Snyder unfold.
"In the process of running away - that's sort of Jack's theme - he runs into a jumper on top of the town hall. Hijinks ensue. The theme of this storyline is that as I am running, people are trying to save me."
When asked why Jack Snyder, of all people, thinks he is able to talk someone down from the ledge, Park chuckles for a moment. He tries to find a nice way to explain that Jack might be just a little unstable at the moment.
"I think he's trying to make up for whatever pain he caused anybody else in his life," Park states. "He's trying to make up for it by saving one at a time. And by saving someone else's life, maybe he can save his own. Jack screwed up royally -- and he is someone who judges everybody for their screw-ups. How can you be so judgmental and wake up that you, yourself, are flawed? Who's going to judge you? There should be people waiting in line, but everybody's forgiven you. He wants to go someplace where no one knows him, and the first stop is here in Philly. He is lost. Jack is... just lost."
Though he's tried to find a place where nobody knows his name, Jack unwittingly bumps into a familiar face: Peter Parros' Ben Harris, a character fans haven't seen in more than four years. In the storyline, Ben has established a food bank in Philadelphia known as PhilAbundance. Though the fictional Ben didn't really start the company, PhilAbundance really exists. Each year, the non-profit organization distributes nearly 17 million pounds of food in the Philadelphia area. [For more information about PhilAbundance, its mission, and how to make a donation, please visit: http://www.philabundance.org]
Jack Snyder's visit to Philadelphia is just one of several stops on the show's "Never Surrender Tour." Next up is Greenville, South Carolina, and then it's on to the other side of the Keystone State, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The As the World Turns episodes featuring the action in Philadelphia air on November 6 and November 9.