He is nameless, faceless, thoroughly anonymous. Just a simple bar on a graph in a government report.
A statistical outlier.
Scan to the right, and you pass a series of zeroes over ages 11, 12, 13. Then a clump of teen suicides – all of them tragic, yet not so much as that solitary bar off to the left.
Was he an outlier in life, too, as alone with whatever sadness or circumstance lead him to this as his remote spot on the chart suggests?
I had pulled up annual report of Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia looking for data on alcohol related deaths. I paged through dozens of charts, graphs, maps before coming to “Suicide Deaths of Children” on page 84.
And there he was.
The questions rushed up to me: Who was he? Whose child was he? What could make a 10-year-old so unhappy as to think, at that tender age, that there was no need to go on? What about the poor parents, or whoever cared for him? Somewhere, there’s a mother, a father, a grandparent, a brother, a sister, a teacher, a neighbor, a friend, wondering what they missed. Could they have done more?
There’s only my wondering, and not much else to know in the report. He was one of 19 child suicides that year. I could guess at how he died. Most likely it was by gunshot or hanging. Those methods account for all but three of the child suicides that year. One inhaled a toxic agent, one jumped from a high place, one drowned.
I have a 10-year-old. My wife teaches 10-year-olds. Ten-year-olds don’t do these things.
Well, they do. Remember Aquan Lewis? A little more than a month ago, he was found hanging by his shirt collar on a hook in a bathroom at Oakton Elementary School in Evanston, Ill. Investigators found his footprint on a toilet. A coroner ruled the death a suicide.
He was in the fifth grade.
I have a fifth grader.