The Truth About Teen Suicide
Winter had come late but ferociously to Glen Rock, New Jersey. The temperature was just 14 degrees F. as Zack Toskovich threw open his second-floor bedroom window sometime just before midnight on Wednesday, February 7, 2007. A nimble climber, the 17-year-old gripped a length of electrical piping, lowered himself to the darkened yard, then headed toward his school, a few blocks away. Later a neighbor would report calling anxiously after the lonely figure as he passed her driveway. He didn't answer; maybe he couldn't hear her through his iPod earbuds.
Glen Rock High School stands just two stories tall, and Zack easily scaled one side. Standing on the school roof that frigid night, wearing a new winter coat his mother had just bought for him, he evidently thumbed this text message into his cell phone, then sent it simultaneously to five of his closest friends:
im sorry. everyone who gets this message will probably hate me but i cant help that. you were the greatest people in my life and i love you all.
When the phone rang around 12:15 a.m., it woke Jane and Pete Toskovich from a sound sleep. Pete fumbled for the phone. "Hello?"
"Is Zack there? It's Vanessa." Zack had professed his love for Vanessa Gonzales the previous year, but she'd told him she thought of him as a brother. At 18, Vanessa had already graduated and now attended Barnard College, in New York City, but the two old friends had stayed close. Just this weekend they'd watched the movie Amelie together.
"He's probably sleeping, but I'll check," said Pete, 53.
Vanessa heard Pete climb the stairs before he came back on the line. "He's not here," he said, sounding perplexed.
Vanessa was not surprised. She'd already phoned and texted Zack, with no response. "Okay," she said. "Can you tell him I called?"
Returning to the master bedroom, Pete told his wife that Zack wasn't home. Instantly alert, Jane grabbed the phone and dialed Vanessa back. "Vanessa, what's going on?" Jane demanded.
"I got this weird text message. I don't think it's good."