The Truth Board

A Blog by the Editors of
The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet...

Nestled in the heart of the Silicon Valley, Palo Alto, California is a wholesome community with high mortgages and good public schools. It stakes its claim to fame as home to Stanford University, Hewlett Packard, Facebook, and Steve Jobs, among others. In more recent days, however, my hometown has been getting some bad press. In a span of eight months, five students from Henry M. Gunn High School stepped fatefully in front of the oncoming Caltrain, a train that runs down the peninsula from San Francisco. Having graduated from Gunn in the previous year, I was already in college when tragedy first struck, but that did not soften the blow by any means. A statement was issued by the press saying that an unidentified male had been struck at the train crossing a little over a mile away from the high school. It was “still to be determined” whether the death was intentional. Having suffered from the fatality of a classmate at the hand of drunk driving a few years prior, I anxiously awaited the release of the boy’s identity, totally unprepared for the result. As it turned out, I did not know the boy personally, but the effect it had on the community did not leave me excluded from the trauma. One month after tragedy stole a treasured student, friend, and son, a young woman took her life in the same spot as her peer. The same statement was issued, and again we awaited the identity of the youth. She was a year younger than I, so the tragedy hit a little closer to home this time. Just as people were starting to remember how to stand back up again, an aftershock hit and left them back at square one. Two days later, a young man’s mother pulled him out of harm’s way, foiling his attempt to follow in the lonely footsteps of his classmates. I, along with my peers, lived in fear of who or what would be next, and we hoped that each time would be the last. August and October 2009 took the lives of another girl and boy, respectively. It had, at this point, become so commonplace that many students had become numb to the shock of it all. Of course, each fatality was a new battle with adversity, a deeper shade of darkness, and another person’s world stolen from them. 2009 ended on a morose note, to say the least, with a handful of failed attempts to keep kids off the train tracks and a great deal of people casting angry words and suspicions on our glass house. January brought a new year, a much-anticipated fresh start. Just a few weeks into our new year, almost exactly one year ago to the day, affliction again reared its ugly head. I had stopped obsessively refreshing the news reports to unearth the identity of each victim, but a phone call shortly after the press release alerted me that the train had taken our classmate and friend. There has been no shortage of criticism of the way we do things in Palo Alto, people feel as though the academic pressures or the affluent nature of our town drove these children to their unimaginable demise. The postulating never ends, but there is no explanation for the situation. I have run out of words with which to synthesize the complexities of my feelings, as it’s been nothing less than a tumultuous journey. Perhaps there isn’t any need for any, no matter what; our fallen friends are always in our hearts.

-Kelsey Laubscher


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