It was one brief paragraph in the Sunday paper. An apparent suicide from the Aurora Bridge in the early hours on Saturday; a fifteen year-old girl, dead on impact in a parking lot below. So anonymous, and brief, like a fifteen year lifespan itself. She didn’t have a name or a face then, no story. Except for the fact that I have a fifteen year-old daughter, and I still go into her room every morning and kiss her cheek as though assuring myself that she’s still safe in the morning, still my little girl tucked into bed with the cat.
On Monday afternoon my daughter came home from school and said, “I guess there was a suicide over the weekend, did you hear?” I realized that although I had read the notice, I hadn’t really heard it; I hadn’t allowed myself to think about another mother’s loss. But the loss of any child has a way of getting close to home. High schoolers may be a demographic that doesn’t read the newspaper or sit down to watch the local news the way my family did when I was growing up, but they have different ways, instant ways, of communicating now. So why couldn’t this girl communicate her desperation before it seemed insurmountable to her?
According to my daughter at least one student at Center School knew the dead girl personally. She went to middle school with her and is visibly mourning. At Ballard High School it is a high tide of grief. For this lost girl was one of their own; a sophomore. There are doubtless those who knew her, those who didn’t, those who thought they knew her well, but didn’t. Students wondering, why? Could I feel like that too? Was her desperation different than mine? Were her problems unresolvable? Were there warning signs? Was she drunk, was she high, was she lonely? Students asking themselves, why didn’t I know her better? Why didn’t I talk to her more in Biology, how could she do it, how could she do it, how could she do it?
Across the city, freshman and sophomores hear about the girl who took her life and wonder why. Former classmates pull out their class pictures from kindergarten and fifth grade. They study her lined up next to them. They look at the picture of her younger self and feel less certain, less whole themselves.
But on Wednesday the name and a newer photo replace the notice of an anonymous suicide. In a paid announcement the family reclaims their daughter as their beloved, they include her first name, middle name and last, they show her smile, her qualities. Their printed words seem to be trying to lift her back up, their words like arms that were not able to hold her before her fall.