Runaway Train

Tricia Sullivan fled her Southern Oregon hometown and the confines of her family in April. Arriving in San Francisco, she melded with the street community of young castoffs, misfits, and rebels. Phoning home, she lied and told her dad she was in New Yor

"Lots of people were upset when we heard. We'd had two other deaths," Elise says. Unlike in urban schools, students deaths here come as a shock, the entire school congregating for funerals. And these deaths were especially gruesome: Last November, a sophomore girl hung herself. In December, a junior was accidentally shot in the head by her boyfriend. Murder, though, was unfathomable.

The morning Tricia's death was announced, Elise and a group of other kids gathered to write letters to Tricia and her parents. Denise Anderson stuck them into the Sullivans' mailbox.

"I wrote that they were shitheads," Elise says. "We were so pissed at them."

Though Elise thinks Tricia was never really suicidal, she says that Tricia once passed her a note about wanting to kill herself.

"She wrote, 'I'm high and I need a way out of this town. Please help me.' I said I'd try, and before I knew it she was gone."

"She was happy for the most part," Elise continues. "I think she thought that her parents didn't really love her. She said they beat her up and stuff when she got into trouble or when they got upset."

I ask if there were bruises from the beatings.

"Not that I could see," says Elise.

Next we talk about high school life and how mean kids can be. "I got so mad at Brian Simmons," Elise says suddenly, " 'cause after Trish passed away we were all upset and taking a cigarette break together, and he said, 'Well, I'm happy for her. She wanted to die, so I'm happy.' How could you say something like that?"

Read Runaway Train (Part II)

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