Sunday, September 19, 2010

Suicide in Harvard Yard

Yesterday morning, one of my friends passed through the Yard on his way to the Science Center when he heard what sounded like "a pop of fireworks" go off behind him.  He was in a hurry, so he didn't turn back to see what was going on. "I thought some kids were goofing off," he wrote to me. When he came back from the Science Center, he found parts of the Yard cordoned off by police tape. The "pop of fireworks" he heard earlier? Well, it was a man who shot himself in the head in front of a tour group.  Boston Globe reports: 

Harvard University Police Department received a call around 11 a.m. reporting the shooting outside Memorial Church, according to Harvard spokesman John Longbrake.
Police arrived to discover the body of a man with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Longbrake said.
It appeared that he was not affiliated with Harvard, Longbrake said.
The suicide occurred during a Yom Kippur service, which was being held by a Reform minyan, a student-run Jewish community at Harvard.

I'm no stranger to suicide. I've lost someone I dearly love, as well as a couple other friends, to suicide. It's not a "victimless crime" as others like to say; it leaves a long line of victims in its wake.  A lot of people might disagree with me on this, but I believe that those who commit suicide are neither cowards nor selfish--it's not for me to judge those who commit suicide, because only they know the depth and circumstances that led them to believe that there is no other relief, solution, or escape.

That being said, I do wonder why he chose to end his life in Harvard Yard. What's the significance? Did he feel so invisible, voiceless, and inconsequential that he thought the only way for him to be seen and heard is to attach the violent end of his life to a well-known institution? I know that most people self-harm to make tangible the pain they feel inside, so was it his way of trying to make people see just how much pain he was in?

I do not know this man who committed suicide, but I do know he deserves peace. I hope that he's found relief wherever he is.


Seth Riddley said...


I came across this post after searching google for information other than the crimson's coverage of this event. I'm a junior in Mather House, and I appreciate the honesty and sincerity of your post. Was refreshing to read.

Peace to you,
Seth Riddley

the UNchecked other said...

Aloha Seth,

Thanks for your comment.

In any case, I hope the media won't sensationalize the story by focusing on the gruesome manner of his death. Instead, emphases must be on why he did it and how something like this could be prevented in the future. He's not a student, but it could be very well be one of us, given the competitive and stressful nature of top-ranked unis (ie: the "publish or perish" mantra that grad students are subjected to).

Take care of yourself and yours.


We must never permit the voice of humanity
within us to be silenced. It is Man's sympathy with all creatures that first makes him a Man.

--Albert Schweitzer

Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

--Viktor E. Frankl