The summer after my Junior year of high school started out wonderful. It was the first summer in which I had a car. I also had a job at an upholstery shop which I actually kind of enjoyed. The best part of the job being that it was only part time, from 8:00 to 12:00. That summer I had the magical combination of time, money, and ready transportation. My friends and I put this to full use, those first six weeks of the summer of 1997 was one of the most joyful times in my life.
As the sun rose the morning of July 23rd, it was supposed to bring with it another great day in what had already been a great summer. The plan for the afternoon was for me a couple of friends to drive down to Boulder, we were going to tour the University of Colorado and then going hang out down on Pearl Street. This was exciting because this would be my first official college tour and Boulder was just a fun place to hang out. The future in both the long and short term look bright and exciting. In actuality the day and my future would take a radically different course.
I was awoken that morning by mother pounding on my bedroom door, demanding to know where my younger brother Nate was. My first terse response to being woken up in such an abrupt manner was to tell my mother to look in her bedroom. As I became more awake I could hear the great level of concern in her voice. So I got up, I headed to basement figuring that Nate simply fell asleep watching TV.
He was not down there, but I did make the first troubling discovery of the day. Written in large letters on a whiteboard was the simple phrase "I Love Mom, Dad, & Andy." The window next to whiteboard had been left open. I got sinking feel as a creeping sense of dread began to wrap its self around me.
Nate, had a history of depression, though at that point I was not personally aware of significant of history it was. My immediate though was that he had run away for some reason. The trouble possibility of suicide did flit across my mind, though at this point I simply quashed that thought.
When I showed my parents what I had found they immediately became very agitated. For the first time I heard the story about how in May while I was gone in North Carolina for the National Science Olympiad tournament, Nate had tried to kill him self by jumping out his bedroom window. It was not a very long drop and he had wound up with nothing other than a few scrapes from the bushes he landed in. Still this revelation added by my growing sense of unease because it was the first time I had ever heard about him trying to hurt himself.
It was at this point that my parents first called the police, though at this point they were totally unhelpful, apparently he had not been missing long enough to warrant their intervention. At about this point one of Nate's best friends showed up at out door with a large manila envelope. In it were what could be best describe as suicide notes, they were written to all his friends.
It was at this point that panic began to set in, though I still could not bring my self to think through to the logical but unthinkable possible ending. With the suicide notes the police became involved, I remember the officer coming to the door and taking my mother and fathers statement. I gave them the odd detail that despite the fact that Nate was missing all his shoes and glasses were still in the house.
After the initial shock of the suicide notes, my mind latched onto the idea that Nate was out there somewhere hiding, to scared to come home, because of the notes he left. It was the only scenario that my wind could bare to think about. With we began the process of searching the town to find him.
For the rest of that morning I drove all over looking spots where I though he might hide. Over time as they heard through the grapevine what was happening my friends began to join me. The whole day took on a surreal cast, that is very hard to describe. For the rest of the morning we found no further trace of Nate.
Sometime shortly after noon, the police showed up again with the bloodhounds. They set them on Nate's trail and I began to hope that we would soon find him OK. Walking through my neighborhood trailing the police and their bloodhounds was almost too surreal of experience for words. I really felt like I had taken a tumble into the rabbit hole. After about 45 minutes the bloodhounds had lead us down to the river, and from there Nate's trail grew cold.
The rest of that afternoon was spent much like the morning, I drove around town with my friends looking for Nate. Because no further bad news had come in my mood had improved, as long as I did not think about things to hard it was like I was on some bizaro scavenger hunt with my friends. Still there was an unshakable nagging sense of dread.
At about dusk I got a call from my parents saying that I needed to com home immediately, though they would not give any details. As I rode up the Cul-de-sac and approached home I noticed that there was a lot of people in my frond yard, and large white official looking SUV in our driveway. As we pulled up I was able to make out the lettering on the SUV it read "Larimer County Corners Office." Reading this my heart froze.
I got out of the vehicle an walk up to my mother with the same absolute sense of impending doom that a condemned man climbing the gallows must feel. I embraced my mother and in near whisper askes "Is he?"
In a broken voice she responded "Yes"
"How?" I manged to gasp.
"In front of the church at Drake & Lemay"
At this point I collapsed onto driveway bawling. I can remember seeing my father laying face down in front yard bawling. There were dozens of people milling around watching all this occur. My memories of this are thankfully hazy. At some point my friends got me to my feet and to me for walk. I was not thinking coherently at all at this point, pure on grief and shock was poring through me.
Eventually everyone else went home and I finally went to bed, and sank into a thankfully dreamless sleep. The next morning I would have to begin dealing with the new realities of my life.