Archive for Wednesday, March 22, 2000

Pausing at the crossing of reality

March 22, 2000

The pain can be felt.

It is in the two wilted bouquets strewn on the pavement. It is in the words painted from one end of the bridge's concrete sides to the other. It is in the larger-than-life-sized face of a young teen painted on the roadway of the bridge. It is in the layered tire tracks at the turn-arounds near the bridge and it is in the shoeprints in the areas made muddy by late winter showers.

Yes, even to someone, someone like me, someone who never met Nathan Castle, someone who didn't realize his artistic talent, his creativity, or his yearning to work for Disney, someone who never heard his laughter or saw his smile even to someone like me, the pain can be felt.

A neighbor who lives near the bridge observed that there has been a steady flow of visitors to the bridge where Nathan Castle took his life just a little more than two weeks ago.

"I see all of these people coming and going and some of them aren't even teens they're adults," the neighbor said.

She explained that what his death what the visitors to the bridge epitomize is the despair that is part of the life of every teen.

"Everyone feels helpless at some times in their lives and they reference Nathan as having expressed what they feel," she said.

Yes the pain can be felt.

Nathan's pain. Our pain. The life-is-not-made-to-order pain. The feeling of hopelessness that digs into the human soul and once in a while takes root.

We wish there might have been a way to prevent his death to find a way to lift his mood, to give him hope. But while most of us slept on that Monday night, he for some reason couldn't see the light of a gentle morning ahead.

And now the pain, Nathan's pain, continues.

So I come to this place and look at the signs, words and symbols all around me that express deeply personal feelings of a community of friends.

Who were they, who came here, and why did they come? Did they come to mourn a death, to celebrate a life or to romanticize a youth fallen before his time?

And why am I here? To report a story or to participate in some way in this ritual? As journalist, I must investigate what we know about teen-age suicide. I read the statistics. I learn that suicide is the third leading cause of death for people age 15 to 24. I find out that in this country nearly 60 percent of all suicides are committed with a firearm, and because firearms are particularly lethal, these individuals usually do not have a second chance.

I read that in 1997, 21 percent of American high school students had seriously considered attempting suicide and that 8 percent had attempted suicide.

Medical information tells us that sometimes our physiology conspires with our emotions to trigger the act an act that might in some instances have been averted with prescription medication.

Because suicide is the eighth leading cause of death for Americans, it is likely that most of us have been affected by it at one time or another. As we can only guess at the pain the victim felt, we know all too well the agony of realizing that we hadn't seen it coming, hadn't been able to stop it, hadn't thought it would ever happen, not here, not to someone we knew and loved.

Yet, standing here, gazing upon this mute outpouring of feelings, this place of flowers and words, I can only fall back before the great unanswered mystery of life and death. Like everyone else, I can only mourn and celebrate and ponder. That is all that any of us can do. But when we leave, it is certain our thoughts will remain behind, behind to ponder the life and death of Nathan Castle.

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