News

Gunn student remembered as 'smart, caring' classmate who loved music, video games

JP Blanchard wouldn't have wanted people to be sad, friend says

Students at Gunn High School Wednesday wore "hug necklaces" in memory of Jean-Paul "JP" Blanchard, their 17-year-old classmate who died Tuesday morning in an apparent suicide at the Caltrain tracks at West Meadow Drive.

The string necklaces, adorned with a clothes-pin "person" surrounded by colored beads representing diversity, were a souvenir from Camp Everytown, a four-day retreat promoting tolerance and non-violence that JP and some of his classmates attended in December.

The apparent suicide "was a surprise," said a Gunn junior named Kathy, who was among the 60 or so students who went to Camp Everytown. Members of that group held a reunion Wednesday in memory of their classmate.

Kathy and many others also wore black Wednesday in memory of JP.

Stephane Carlisle, a Gunn junior who said he had spent many hours listening to music, playing games and hanging out with JP, said his friend would not have wanted people to wear black.

"He didn't want people to be serious all the time. He wanted people to be lighthearted," said Stephane, who wore a white Nirvana T-shirt.

"I don't think he'd want everybody to be sad."

JP was an excellent classically trained pianist, Stephane said, and also enjoyed playing contemporary music. He was a good student and took challenging classes at Gunn.

JP was a fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd and loved to play the music video game Guitar Hero and the Nintendo action video game Super Smash Bros., Stephane said.

A member of the junior varsity tennis team, JP liked to talk and watch sports.

"He was a smart guy who was funny and naturally gifted at a lot of things," Stephane said. "He just liked living for now. He liked it when you didn't have to worry about anything."

Gunn sophomore Onaiza Kazi said JP had a special gift for listening to others, which was appreciated by his friends.

"He was really thoughtful and caring about other people," Onaiza said. "He would always listen to people's problems and offer his input. It takes a lot for someone to listen like that."

Onaiza was among the students who clustered Wednesday afternoon at a makeshift floral memorial next to the Caltrain tracks at West Meadow Drive. Police and school administrators -- including at one point school district Superintendent Kevin Skelly -- also stood at the spot for much of the afternoon.

JP's tennis coaches remembered him as an energetic and versatile player.

Jim Gorman taught JP through private lessons, summer clinics and on the Gunn junior varsity team for about three years. JP's father, Jean Marc Blanchard, brought his son to Gorman for lessons shortly before JP's freshman year.

"I remember his dad hanging out on the court and really involved with his son," said Gorman, adding that JP's father played tennis as well. "It was a great father/son thing."

JP went on to be one of the top doubles players on the junior varsity team, playing wherever he was needed, Gorman said.

"He was a great kid. He enjoyed his tennis," he said. "He had a great sense of humor."

Tony Moy coached JP this spring on the JV team.

"JP was able to adapt with any doubles partner and win matches. He was well-liked by many, as attested by his friends that came to visit and watch him play on the courts," Moy said.

"JP will be truly missed."

Counselors from the nonprofit Adolescent Counseling Services cancelled their scheduled appointments and opened their doors to Gunn students and staff Wednesday.

"The staff is affected as well," said Margaret Murchan, the nonprofit's On-Campus Counseling Program Director. "It's very upsetting to the whole campus because some of the teachers knew the student very well, of course.

"The students themselves are having difficulties. We're seeing them individually right now, and we're also seeing a couple of groups of five or six students that were friends of the student who died.

"We're aware that this could be affecting the student body for quite some time," Murchan said.

Skelly attended a 7:45 a.m. Gunn staff meeting, at which experts briefed teachers and staff on how to handle the death with their students.

"We're working on making sure we watch the kids and give them time to do what they can to try to make sense out of something that's incomprehensible," Skelly said.

"We're thinking about the next steps, but want to get through the next couple of days first and make sure the kids are safe. We're having conversations with the PTA leadership on this topic as well," he said.

The Santa Clara County Coroner's Office officially identified Blanchard late Wednesday afternoon.

The policy of the Palo Alto Weekly and Palo Alto Online in the case of deaths (whether accidental or through suicide) that take place in a public place and when the person's identity is widely known among his or her community is to publish the identity and information about the person's life.

Withholding this information results in rumors and speculation and stands in the way of the broader community grieving and engaging each other in a supportive fashion, Weekly Publisher Bill Johnson explained in a Town Square posting Wednesday.

Related material:

Gunn announces student's death, with sadness

Letter from ACS Director Philippe Rey

Superintendent Kevin Skelly's letter to parents

Managing Editor Jocelyn Dong contributed to this report.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sad Person
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2009 at 5:18 pm

I cant believe he did this. Why? Was life that bad where you give up all hope and choose to go to die, not knowing what comes after death? There is no problem so insurmountable that no one can help. I am terrified of what happens after you die. I myself have had suicidal bouts, but never actually acted out on them out of fear of what happened next.

When I knew him I thought he was happy and popular, he was doing well in school.I only knew him briefly and when I heard the news, he was the last person I could think of who would suicide. I still cant believe it. Absolutely shocked, horrified, saddened.


Happy memories:
I remember the first time I played him in tennis. He absolutely pwned me, 7-0 in a tiebreak :D.His shots absolutely blew me away.
I also knew him as a counselor at a summer camp near Paly.
I just wished I had gotten to know him better.

Someone please tell me what was happening with him, I really want to know.

I hope he is well and in a better place. The world can be a cruel, harsh unforgiving place.

10th grade


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Posted by Ssigdel
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2009 at 5:24 pm

He was easily one of the nicest people at Gunn, always helpful and funny.
I only knew him since last year, but it doesnt take a long time to recognize special when you see it.
I miss you, we all do..


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hey there
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2009 at 5:30 pm

I miss you man. You got me here eating fatty foods all heartbroken. I still can't believe it.

You were a great friend. You'll forever be in my heart.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by student
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2009 at 5:39 pm

I love Camp Everytown. It changed my life and i know it changed his too.

I wear my hug necklace with hope.


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Posted by wow
a resident of Barron Park
on May 6, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Sad Person
As the parent of a 10th grader, I too am sad as it hits so close to home for all of us, even those who didn't have the joy of knowing him as you obviously did.

I am also struck by your honesty and comments about your own bouts. Without getting specific, would you share the general aspects of what have been common trigger points that you have experienced. Has it centered around grades? Family? Friends? Relationships? None of the above? And what would you say helped get you through these bouts?

This has been a huge community tragedy and all of us are searching for answers. Not only to understand the senselessness of such an early departure, but also to understand what can be helpful to minimize the possibility of future tragedies occurring.

I am so sorry for the family and friends of this young man.



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Posted by ̒
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2009 at 5:46 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Studenttt
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2009 at 5:56 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by gonetooyoung
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2009 at 7:13 pm

As a mother of a freshman at Gunn this is so tragic for the entire community, students at all schools and an enormous tragedy for the family of this young man, who, from what I've read from his friends on Facebook, was a wonderful person with so much to offer and who brought joy and friendship to many.

My heart and my prayers are with the family, friends and students at Gunn. Please talk to your parents, friends, a counselor or one of the many suicide prevention lines if you ever feel so desperate that you entertain these kind of thoughts. We, as parents need to really sit and talk, more over, LISTEN to our children every day. Each night before bed. They need to know that we are going to be there for them always and no matter what!

I hope that by talking and sharing the friends of JP can give each other solace and companionship during this time.

Life is so very precious and never to be taken for granted. I hope that he is at peace.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by i'llmissyou
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 6, 2009 at 7:31 pm

I can't believe he's gone.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by lostinconfusion
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2009 at 7:37 pm

I will never get why JP did this but all i know is that when i went to everytown with him, i got very close to him. this comes as a complete shock, and i still cannot wrap my head around it. i will wear my hug necklace for many many days to come in his memory.
he sat next to me in one of my classes, i will never forget him.
He touched my life in a way that none other has and i will be forever greatful to him for that


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mother of Grade-Schoolers
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 6, 2009 at 8:01 pm

I did not know this young man but I am absolutely crestfallen for his family, friends, teachers and neighbors. My only hope is that this tragedy can provide a forum for all of us to tell our kids to please, please not face their troubles alone. Remind them that things that troubled us a year ago we can often barely recall a mere year later. Ask for help. Admit imperfection. Don't play the perfect game.

My most heartfelt thoughts are with his family tonight.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A Friend
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2009 at 8:10 pm

I will miss JP so much. He was kind and helpful, and one of the smartest people that I've ever met. I just can't imagine not seeing him everyday, sitting next to me in class.
I have so many memories of JP sitting in math and laughing at some joke or the other. He was always friendly to everybody, and listened to everybody's problems and gave great advice. I don't understand why JP did this, but I hope that he found his peace.
I just wish that he could see how many people love him, and how many people have been devastated to lose him, because I hate to think that he died thinking that he had nobody.


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Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 6, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Please tell your children there is no shame in stopping to take a break when life becomes so overwhelming. Have a code word to know when to give them a break, let them take periodic mental health days or sleep in every now and then during 1st period. Teach how to accept who you are, know your limits, and know what you are capable of managing in a healthy way.
Most of us are not "super human" though it does feel as though adults in this area expect that from others, including children and teens. Ask how things are going, go do something fun or do nothing for a change. Performance is not the only topic of conversation. This is an intense town for children and young adults, but we can turn that around. Please consider :)


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Posted by J
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2009 at 8:33 pm

JP, i really hope you that you may rest in peace.

i didnt know JP well. But I wished I did. I know this seems like exactly what everyone would say. But seriously, if we all took the effort to try and reach out to our community at Gunn INSTEAD of focusing on AP tests, we might have made a difference.

For everyone, this is a lesson to be learned.
Life is precious and that we should all cherish everyone and everything around us. Nothing should be taken for granted. Moments are moments; Once they are gone, its irreversible.

For now, we must give him all the respect that we can to JP for he was a wonderful guy. But remember, life must continue on.

I really wished people would be more openly with their love and perhaps, it would make someone's day much more warmer.

And i really hope that his family, friends and other people will have all the care they can get in order to get past this hard times.

I wished he knew how much people would care. I guess people dont show it often... but when tragedy occurs, love will blossom.

RIP JP... <3


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Posted by Brings back memories
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2009 at 8:50 pm

My sons friends shot himself at a park on Christmas day in the early 1990's. He, too, was a junior in high school. Please note, he did not want to die...he only wanted the pain to go away.

As I look back, there were warning signs. In eigth grade he began giving some of his favorite things away. I really didn't think much of it at first, only that he should check with his parents before giving anything away. He shrugged it off saying he had way to much stuff.

As time went on, he didn't want to go on any outings with his mom, sister, and stepdad unless my son or one of his other friends went along. He later told my son that it was unbearable to live at home. His stepdad hated him he thought.

They later moved to Fremont and there was not much contact after that. He struggled to finish high school and occasionally phoned my son telling him he had to get out of that house.

Long story short, he never found the way out.

Apparently, the pain was far greater than anyone could imagine at home. On Christmas day, words were exchanged between him and his stepdad...more hurting words. He took a gun from the house, drove to the park nearby, and shot himself to death.

A wonderful young man. Smart, funny, cool, well-liked. My heart was broken, and I asked myself how could this have happened. How could a vibrant young man, so full of life, feel the only way out of his pain was to commit suicide. I could not imagine what he was going through at home.

I got a call from his family inviting us to the service; but after hearing his stepdad carry on, making obnoxious remarks on the phone about my son's dear friend; I soon realized why this dear young man took his life.

I did not go to the funeral. I could not stand to be in the presence of his stepdad after those remarks. We gave his mother and sister our condolences and began to grieve ourselves.

I believe that a person really wants intervention...a way out of their pain. Sometimes they don't find it and use suicide as the only option.


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Posted by Friend
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2009 at 8:53 pm

I've known JP since middle school, we had classes together and made fun of the teachers. He'd always get in trouble for his witty comments. JP, I'll probably never understand why you did this, but all I can do now is sit here and pray for your family and other friends. I never thought this would happen to you of all people. =(

It is true what they say then: the good die young.

I'm going to miss our laughs and the strange ways we talked to each other. I'm going to miss complaining to you, and you complaining back. I'm going to miss you sharing your favorite songs or watching stupid videos on Youtube. I'm going to miss our deep conversations. I'm going to miss your outstanding writing and complex theories that I could never understand. I'm going to miss your smile and your hair. I'm going to miss watching you play Blockles and beating everyone. I'm going to miss that awkward face you'd give me, and then start chuckling. I just miss being around you. I'm going to miss how you'd give the best advice, or how you'd try to help out everyone's problems. I'm sorry none of us could help with yours.

This is such a dreadful feeling. It's so strange walking on campus and not being able to see you. I'm walking to class, thinking you're going to be there.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by J
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Just thought I'd like to share a lyrics of a song by Lynyrd Skynyrd (a band that he was fond of)

Train roll on, on down the line,
Won't you please take me far away?
Now I feel the wind blow outside my door,
Means I'm leaving my woman behind.
Tuesday's gone with the wind.
My woman's gone with the wind.

And I don't know where I'm going.
I just want to be left alone.
Well, when this train ends I'll try again,
But I'm leaving my woman at home.

(chorus)
Tuesday's gone with the wind.
Tuesday's gone with the wind.
Tuesday's gone with the wind.
My woman's gone with the wind.

Train roll on many miles from my home,
See, I'm riding my blues away.
Tuesday, you see, she had to be free
But somehow I've got to carry on.


Maybe this might explain some details


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 6, 2009 at 9:00 pm

After I heard the bad news, I have been crying. When I drove by the tracks, when I heard the train horns, tears burst. This is so sad and shocking. My heart goes out to his family, and his young friends. May JP rest in peace, may his family recover and move on.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Your Friend
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2009 at 9:06 pm

JP, I'm sitting on my couch crying, and I just can't stop thinking about you. I will miss you so much, and I am sorry that you couldn't talk to me or anyone else about what you were going through. I'm sorry that you were in so much pain that you felt like you had to do this.
There are so many people who loved you, even more than I thought, and I wish you knew that. Please don't think that you left this world with nobody who cared about you. We all love you so much, JP.
I'm sorry that we didn't understand you enough to help you.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A Sympathetic Community Member
a resident of Ventura
on May 6, 2009 at 9:14 pm

I was so saddened when I looked over and saw the stopped train when I took my children to school on Tuesday. In retrospect, I realize that it must have just happened. The police were already there at 8:30, and the tarp was draped over the body. My heart sunk and it hurts me to see all of the grieving students.
When I was a student at Paly in 1986, a student took his own life at the Churchill intersection. I knew him quite well, and it was a devastating loss for everyone at the school. I still think of him often.
My heart goes out to JP's family and friends.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A Good Friend
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2009 at 9:24 pm

I just feel so guilty about this. If I had spent a little less time studying for AP tests and SATs and a little more time being your friend, maybe you and I would be talking on the phone right now, arguing about something stupid like usual.
I just can't help but feel responsible. You were one of the smartest people I knew, and you always gave me such good advice. I can't believe the trivial issues I came to you with- I'm sorry I didn't know what you were going through. Maybe I never asked.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Student
a resident of Los Altos
on May 6, 2009 at 9:27 pm

Those lyrics can't be a coincidence.

It's very saddening to hear this happen.

I share my condolences with his family and friends.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2009 at 9:39 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by To "A Good Friend"
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Since yesterday, I have also been dealing with guilt over JP's death. He was my friend - sometimes I noticed that he was sad, he used to say some cryptic things that might have been related to his suicide, the list goes on. Please talk to someone about the way you are feeling about your guilt. After some thought, I realized that I cannot hold myself responsible, and you shouldn't either. As they say, hindsight is 20/20. This is a tragedy, and nobody intended for this to happen.


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Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 6, 2009 at 10:11 pm

To the friends of JP who are feeling guilty: please know that you gave so much to him by just being his friend. I recently lost a friend to suicide, and I thought of the things you're thinking of. If only...etc.

The main question I had was why? Why did he have to do this? I realized after a while that the friend I knew, the laughing, fun-loving, wacky guy who just wanted everyone to be happy, was one person, and the man who took his own life was another. The tragedy was that he had to hide that hopeless side of himself so completely that the hidden, hopeless person couldn't even reach out for help when he needed it. Please don't ever blame yourselves--you couldn't know about the hidden JP. But you made the JP you knew happy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by stundent
a resident of Barron Park
on May 6, 2009 at 10:21 pm

So today we found out that a kid from your school jumped in front of a train. So Iwrote this poem

Everyone thinks to lean towards the light once,
The last option and it comes to this,
people cry scream break down and even jump,
why this was there not another choice
why this
for now we shall miss

someone once told me its a permanent solution to a temporary problem
To his family I give my heart


 +   Like this comment
Posted by WILL ESCHER
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Bless him. This is such a tragic story and he NEEDS to be remembered. I had absolutely no connection with JP and i'm still trying to get this past me. I remember seeing about ten police cars and plenty of police men with blue latex gloves and number plates when i was driving up to Alma from East Meadow in my truck and I knew what happened. I felt my heart drop almost as far as it has ever dropped when i saw the yellow tarp covering the body.
Jp's family, the Blanchards, need our loving care and support. It is unimaginable what they are going through and much help is needed. Do a good deed and show that you care by remembering and attending his memorial service on saturday.
Send your support and prayers to him and his family. Nothing is more important than that family at this time.

Much love and support.
-Will Escher

I hope for the best Blanchards!
:)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by reader
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2009 at 11:00 pm

This is so sad. My heart really goes out to the family and friends. He sounds like such a wonderful person.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Don't forget the effect of this on the train crew. The engineer was the last to see him alive, and the conductor was the first to see him dead. It's very hard on the train crews when this happens.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a gunn parent
a resident of Green Acres
on May 6, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Gunn Students,
Perhaps the best memorial you can give JP is to make a pact with each other that this will be the last tragic death amongst your friends and classmates. Make a promise for JP's memory, that you will not keep inside pain and hurt and anger that seems insurmountable. You can promise to share it with a friend or a friend's parent if you can't share with your own, or some adult you trust at school or elsewhere. And then there is the promise to ACT. if you have a friend in danger or in need of help, you can promise, in JP's memory, to do something to help that person. Depression can be a clinical disease and need professionals to help. You can promise to break the secret teenage code of silence so that you won't have to read about your close friend in the newspaper some day. The silence isn't worth it. Thing about it. Make this one the LAST ONE, for JP.

My condolences to JP's family and friends. May his memory be blessed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Snappers
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2009 at 11:33 pm

JP, when I remember you, I remember a photo from eighth grade where you posed with two other people wearing mirrored shades and you had this gigantic grin on that I never failed to see whenever I saw you. When reading through these comments I found one that said you were a very good piano player, which I had never known. Maybe if I and just a couple other people took the time to be as kind and caring to you as you are to everybody else, you might not have done this.
Even though we weren't quite best friends, there will always be a hole in my heart after I heard you stepped onto the train tracks. I don't know why you did it, but the thing I want most in the world is for you to see how many people care about you. I miss the way you can always make a witty comeback or joke about anything anybody says. I miss the way you always make me laugh just by being around you. I hate how after all the hilarious moments you provided me with, you managed to give me the worst moment of my life.


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Posted by Mom of a junior at Paly
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 7, 2009 at 12:30 am

We all wish this would never have happened, and we could have prevented it. My heart goes out to the family and friends of this fine young man who decided to end his life. I don't know if shared grief decreases the pain of those affected; I really hope it does! I too have a son who is a junior, so I know how hard it is for the students to cope with the daily challenges of school and adolescence. After he had heard what happened to JP, my son said: "There is not much else in our lives than work and being stressed out by it. It's probably easier to die than to live." I would hope that not only parents but also teachers would talk to their students about what happened to JP. If students feel that adults really care, it can make a big difference.


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Posted by kyle
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 7, 2009 at 2:48 am

The Palo Alto Weekly and its Online Palo Alto should be ashamed for exploiting this young man's death in such a tabloid, yellow journalism manner. This is simply voyeurism. Nothing is gained by publishing all of this, and it might well inspire copycats.


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Posted by Michelle
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2009 at 2:48 am

Although I don't live in Palo Alto anymore and I never knew JP as anything more than a name, I miss him.
He was a good friend to a lot of my friends and I want nothing more right now than to be able to go back and put some flowers down.
RIP


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Posted by online friend
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2009 at 6:48 am

He was a member of a online community that plays card games, he was a good friend to many of the people in the league. this has sent shock and sadness through most of the people within the community. to his friends and family outside the internet my condolences.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by wow
a resident of Barron Park
on May 7, 2009 at 9:30 am

Kyle

Your posting on this thread is inappropriate, insensitive and misplaced.


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Posted by TacoMaster
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2009 at 11:16 am

I didn't know JP as well as a lot of you... To be honest, I didn't even know him as JP. I knew him as trueevil, as did a plethora of Magic: the Gathering players did in our internet community. What we did see of him was a funny, solid-minded person who was quick witted and really cool to talk to. On behalf of our little community, we're all deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our condolences go out to his family, and though we cannot be there to say our final good byes, we're all doing so in our own ways. Even discussing some good times we've had with him on our own. He will be missed in his community and worldwide.


^9 trueevil


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Posted by BT
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2009 at 11:18 am

I was on a Northbound train that slowly passed the scene, and I'm sorry to say I saw the tarp covering his body. Now that I know it was a suicide of a teenager, I'm crestfallen.

My hope is that all troubled young people see how final this act is. Teenagers are often unable to sufficiently plan for more than a few days/weeks at a time. I think the suicidal ones don't realize this ends their entire future. In some way, I think they imagine they'll "remember" their suicide, like a broken leg from a fall. But, it's final. Nothing is more final. Choose life. Maybe a whole different life, but CHOOSE LIFE.


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Posted by BT
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2009 at 11:18 am

Kyle - Wow is correct. Yellow Journalism is sensationalistic and profit driven. Neither of these are in play here.

Haven't you read all of these comments? Don't you see that this is part of a healing process for a whole community?


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Posted by eyewitness
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 7, 2009 at 12:58 pm

It's taken me two days to recover enough to post anything. I'm a mom. I have a son at Gunn too. I didn't know JP, and neither did my son. My car was stopped right behind the crossing gates when this happened a few feet directly in front of me. The person in the car next to me didn't see anything, nor did the crossing guard. Just after, the people behind me honked insistently (insensitively!) at me to make me drive over the exact spot mere seconds later so they could get on with their days. I don't know how much the conductor actually saw. I think I'm the main witness. I saw everything, too much, but was unable to stop anything. It's playing over and over like a movie on instant replay in my mind. I've read so many nice things about him. He had so many friends at Gunn. My own son wore black to school in a sign of support and sympathy. I can't help thinking that JP was just the sort of nice kid I'd want hanging out with my own son. I can't imagine how his mom is feeling, but let's just say I have a notion of a hint and my heart aches for her. I thought of avoiding driving by, but I still have kids to get to school each day and life must go on. I like the memorial and the show of love, though it made me really panic to see a cluster of students there this morning. I can't actually bring myself to go investigate the memorial. Could someone do me a favor though? I'm sorry to ask this, but please someone remove the blue balloon. It's too much for me to see. My sympathies go out to his friends and family. I won't be attending the service, pretty sure nobody would want me there and I don't want to give details yet again, but I wanted to extend my sympathies. His life is now a part of my life. I've learned enough about him to know that he was a great kid and I've never wished harder that I'd had superpowers.


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Posted by concerned neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 7, 2009 at 1:27 pm

To "eyewitness",

What you saw must have been horrifying, and life changing. I wish you healing and much support from those around you. Just as I hope the students at Gunn and JP's friends will find the support and counseling they may need, I hope you will do so as well. Finding resources early can make all the difference, not only for you, but also your son.

Take good care.


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Posted by pattipie
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2009 at 1:28 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Every professional counseling journal tells us NOT to set up memorials to suicide victims. We have to avoid romanticizing or glamorizing this horrible act. If students want to write about their memories of this young man, do it on paper and send it on to the family. Attend the memorial service and grieve together. Media should absolutely be minimizing their coverage.


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Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on May 7, 2009 at 1:38 pm

I recently heard someone describe suicide as not the way of someone who wants to end their life, but the way of someone who thinks their pain will never end. I know high school years in Palo Alto can suck, trust me because I've been there too. So much pressure on you guys to excel in classes while you juggle popularity and relationships at the same time. PLEASE just remember this, high school may seem like it's the most important thing ever at the time, but you have a long life to live. Let it play out, you have so much time to live happily once you are free from childhood obligations.


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Posted by midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 7, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Our son was a Gunn student who took his life ~ 2 yrs after graduating. The articles written about him and his life in the Weekly and the Mercury and on the TV news were a tribute to him and we were very grateful. After his death, my husband gave up a career in high tech and went back to college to become a counselor. We think of our son every day and miss him so much. There are two fine organizations I know of that help those who are grieving, Kara and the Mental Health Research Institute both in Palo Alto. BTW, many of our sons friends still visit us 13 years later and they are great source of comfort and joy to us.


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Posted by Susan
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 7, 2009 at 1:52 pm

I'll take the blue balloon down.


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Posted by no
a resident of Barron Park
on May 7, 2009 at 1:56 pm

i was a good friend of JP's and it would be extremely innaporpriate to take the balloon down. I went and left flowers to show how I wanted to pay respect and that is how one of his friends wanted to leave his mark on JP's memorial next to the track. it's not up to you to take it down it means a lot to the friends


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Posted by Susan
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 7, 2009 at 2:02 pm

She didn't ask about the flowers - just the balloon. She was part of this tragedy. Do you know what it's like to see a suicide? We all know what it's like to loose a loved one.
This is different. Solace is thin and fragile. Recovery is iffy. Please be generous to her.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 7, 2009 at 2:04 pm

eyewitness,

Oh my god, just awful, I'm so sorry you had to see it.

no,

Yes, remove the balloon. Spare that poor woman. You have to understand, we're talking about seeing a parent's worst nightmare.


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Posted by Me
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2009 at 2:05 pm

I believe the action of leaving the balloon was the motivation for it being there, not the balloon itself. Besides, the balloon will deflate and wither soon enough... Is it too much to ask that it be removed a bit early?


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Posted by rem
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 7, 2009 at 2:51 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by sad about this
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 7, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Dear Eyewitness,
I'm so sorry you had to go through such a painful ordeal. I've been wondering also about the people who were there that morning, and I sincerely wish you much love and support through this challenging time.

Rather than take down the balloon, though, would it be possible for you to use the Charleston crossing, instead of the West Meadow crossing?


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Posted by sad
a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 7, 2009 at 3:55 pm

i cant beleive da suicide happend. som eof mi frenz knew him and only had nice comments about him. rest in peace


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Posted by friendfromigl
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 7, 2009 at 5:14 pm

to jp:

i'll try and leave a gamecube controller by the flowers as a memory of your awesomeness at super smash bros. i had lots of fun playing against you. rest in peace


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Posted by i barely knew him
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 7, 2009 at 5:28 pm

i was lucky enough to go to Camp Everytown with JP,and got to know him a little there. i wish now that i had learned more- what i saw was a kind, funny guy who was unafraid to laugh. i knew he had his demons- don't we all?- but am still unable to comprehend what it must've been like for him. i have considered suicide several times, and once even gotten close but there was always something that pulled me back. it might have only been how clean the air smells after rain or the colors on a flower but it was something. i believe in gaia, and so do not grieve so much for his loss because i know he is still around us, but i grieve for the pain that he must have felt to have gotten to this point.


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Posted by friend
a resident of Barron Park
on May 7, 2009 at 5:46 pm

im going to miss you so much.


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Posted by wow
a resident of Barron Park
on May 7, 2009 at 6:02 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Parent of a Gunn student
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 7, 2009 at 6:28 pm

JP was in my child's class.

I think back to my own turbulent high school years - at one point I was also depressed and suicidal; yet I am so thankful now to have lived to cherish so many long and beautiful years since then.

I can only imagine devastating this is to his parents and his younger sisters.

If you have children, please let them know you love them, let them know that you don't judge them, and that they can come to you for support when there is a problem. No problem is ever truly so big that there is no other way to diminish the pain and get past it.


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Posted by my heart goes out...
a resident of Walter Hays School
on May 7, 2009 at 6:57 pm

Dear Eyewitness,
I am so sorry. Devastating. I can't even imagine.


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Posted by fyi
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 7, 2009 at 7:00 pm

There is a poster in the Student Activities Center at Gunn for students to write their thoughts for JP's family.


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Posted by Dona
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 7, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Tuesday morning I was sitting home around 8:30 I heard the RR crossing bells ringing - about six blocks to the west of me. The clanging didn't quit -- and I knew that another person had stepped in front of the train. And I prayed. I wish we had more people for young people to share with when they're hurting.


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Posted by youarenotalone
a resident of Midtown
on May 7, 2009 at 9:20 pm

My heart goes out to the little sisters and the parents of a child who had his entire life ahead of him yet felt so hopeless. I am a parent of a sophmore at Paly. My son stays in his room a lot listening to XBox and playing games on his computer. Like JP, my son is very bright. Unlike JP, my son makes no secret about hating high school and he doesn't hide his depression. Every morning I wake up with the single goal of keeping my son alive so that he can mature and grow the coping skills he'll need to survive this crazy, stressful world. I could care less that my son misses a lot of school and will have to start college at Foothill. There, but for the grace of God, go I... and there is yet another tomorrow to worry about. I am so very sad for the parents and wanted you to know that you are not alone.


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Posted by len
a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 7, 2009 at 10:01 pm

I am so sorry about this tragedy. I don't know him or his family but I can't stop crying. I have a teenage son and I can not imagine the pain that JP's family is going through.


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Posted by StudentatGunn
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 7, 2009 at 10:14 pm

We can only wish for the speedy recovery of their family.

Rest in peace, JP. I'm also trying to understand the pain that you went through.


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Posted by Dazed
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 7, 2009 at 11:05 pm

I didn't know you well, JP. But...I hope that you are in a happier place now.. Maybe tonight, I'll look up, and there will be another star in the sky.

Rest In Peace


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Posted by Kathy
a resident of Downtown North
on May 8, 2009 at 11:33 am

This is a truly lost for the entire community in Palo Alto. My heart will go to the J.P.'s family. Being parents is not easy no matter what you have done for you kid. By the way, I am a single mother.

I moved to Palo Alto for my son to attend high school here and my daughter to attend a better public school here too. Only a few months later, a Paly student committed suicide about November 2003. It was a wake up call for me. I had realized that going to a good college would not be my goal for my son after high school. Instead, I would like to see my son still alive after finishing high school. I feel tremendous sadness for the family of J.P. Sometimes, it is difficult to understand a teenager. Thank you.


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Posted by James
a resident of Midtown
on May 8, 2009 at 12:16 pm

What kind of music did this young man love? Some of the genres promote suicide ( e.g. Web Link ). Many video games have very violent overtones. When these two activities are combined in a relentless way, a person's mind can become imprinted with anti-social or self-destructive behavior. This is especially true for kids with depressive personalities.

It never ceases to amaze me how teenagers and many adults will protect their music, no matter how harmful it is to them and others.

Some people have talked about the surface rail tracks being like a "loaded gun" for depressed teenagers, but they fail to address what is coming through those headsets on a daily basis.


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Posted by a sympathizer
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 8, 2009 at 1:50 pm

I suffer from clinical depression. I have attempted suicide, and can attest to the fact that the pain can be so unbearable, that I truly believed suicide was the only option. In the end, ECT (Electoconvulsive Therapy) along with medication, therapy and the support of my family saved me. I will just add that it is truly a shame that mental illnesses carry such a negative stigma in today's society.

My heart goes out to JP and his family and friends. May you find some comfort in the loving and caring support from your community.


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Posted by A concerned family
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 8, 2009 at 2:26 pm

James,
Thank you for bringing up this topic about the music and video games. It has been on my mind this entire week. The lyrics of Lynryd Skynyrd have been posted here a couple of times, apparently as music JP liked and played when he was playing an online game: Magic:The Gathering,(also posted here online) which my kid's tell me has alot of violent & wizardry themed overtones etc. From what I have read, and observed, when kid's play these kinds of games hours and hours upon end, it can re-wire their brain, so to speak. I know that sometimes when I am working on a project and spending hours online, that sometimes my brain feels really off base and I have to de-connect for long periods of time. Perhaps when kid's are spending many hours of online game time, plus having the triggers of teenage life stresses etc, it's a dangerous mix. My family sends heartfelt wishes of kindness to the Blanchard family and JP's friends. We hope that all the students will be able to keep a good balance as they go through this time of grieving, and also the end of the school year. Take care, everyone, and of each other.


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Posted by James
a resident of Midtown
on May 8, 2009 at 4:46 pm

A concerned family,

I noticed that you have already been rebuffed on the music/video possible contribution (a different thread). It is always this way, when music is brought up as a contributing factor.

Bullying, abuse, divorce, stress, etc. are fair game, but don't dare touch music. Already, stress has been a big topic of discussion regarding this situation. I don't know why music is a verboten subject, because it can be a form of psychological abuse and stress, but that is just the way it is, it would seem.

What better time to bring it up, than when it is ripe to be discussed? Shouldn't we be looking for solutions, along with the expressions of grief?


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Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of College Terrace
on May 8, 2009 at 5:10 pm

After reading this thread, I realized that a lot of the students are blaming themselves. I am reposting the below words here from a different thread. Hopefully can share with more Gunn students my experience.

The lightness of words will never make up for the loss of a young life. As fellow parents, we feel the pain of JP's family, and our condolences go to them.

Still, let me try to say this: it is not your fault.

I lost my best friend since childhood to suicide more than 10 years ago. He was kind, smart and lively. We enjoyed each other's company growing up together. He started suffering from depression after going to college.

For years I kept blaming myself and thinking/dreaming about him. When we had our first child, I held the cherished bundle in my arms, the same thoughts popped up again: only if he were still around, only if I had done something...

With help and time, I realized that it was not my fault. I wrote a lot; finally I was able to get over with the guilt and the haunting thoughts, after 10+ years.

I found out that survivors of suicides have heavy burden and deep guilt in them for a prolonged time period. They are gone but we are left without even a chance to say goodbye. I understand the feeling someone felt ¡°driven crazy¡± wondering why.

Today I still feel sad and miss him a lot, but I should only live a good life, or twice as good a life, for myself, and for those gone too early. The mission is meant for us left behind to carry out.

A lot of people visiting this site are the fellow Gunn students of JP's. I just wanted to share with you my experience in a 10-year period, put things into perspective, and hope your young hearts less burdened.

It is not your fault...


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 8, 2009 at 6:46 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by S/A
a resident of another community
on May 8, 2009 at 6:51 pm

A concerned family:

Magic The Gathering a collectible trading card strategy game. It is not a role playing game. Other games that involve battles include Risk, Battleship, and chess and you'd never see someone trying to make an association between those games and suicide. I understand that people fear things they don't understand. I understand that people need something to blame for suicide because the thought of someone doing that to themselves is scary. But making these associations does a disservice to people in general. When you blame someones interests for their death you set up a pattern in which you continue to ignore the real issues that nudge people toward taking their own life.

I do not play Magic The Gathering. I knew JP as trueeevil (I always wondered what the extra e was about and would address him as trueeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee emphasizing it) from a chat room where most of the people were Magic players. I'm manic depressive about 15% of manic depressives commit suicide so statistically me, the non-magic player is more likely to commit suicide than the magic players there. When you look at interests instead of real causes you'd see it the other way around, and in general miss what matters.


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Posted by James
a resident of Midtown
on May 8, 2009 at 7:03 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on May 8, 2009 at 8:02 pm



In addition to sadness it is also important that teens and others have the permission and ability to express anger about the act of suicide.

Suicide is a terrible thing to do to the survivors.

A healthy anger at the choice of suicide can exist along side sadness and loving memories.

This healthy experience and expression of anger at the act of self destruction balances the scales of toxic guilt that many survivors feel.

Suicide is a very bad decision with a very bad outcome for everybody.

In high school we teach kids diversity, tolerance etc.

All very well, but we do not teach decision making skills explicitly at the cognitive, emotional,behavioral and social levels.

One of the issues with teen suicide is the copycat syndrome, the cat is out of the bag now, avoidance will not work, so as parents and friends we have got to talk this through together with healthy and appropriate permission for anger.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on May 8, 2009 at 8:52 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by KYM
a resident of Midtown
on May 8, 2009 at 8:52 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by James
a resident of Midtown
on May 8, 2009 at 9:10 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Ty
a resident of another community
on May 9, 2009 at 6:29 pm

The last thing we need at a time like this is a person like "A concerned family."

I can't believe someone has the nerve to post something like that in a time of tragedy.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on May 10, 2009 at 12:32 pm



Summer Jobs May Help Prevent Suicidal Tendencies In At-risk TeensWeb Link

"ScienceDaily (Mar. 25, 2009) — A University of Iowa study found that when a friend of a friend attempts suicide, at-risk teens are more likely to seriously consider doing so.
But at-risk teens are less likely to be suicidal if they hold summer jobs.
In fact, summer employment is more of a deterrent than holding a job during the school year, attending church, participating in sports or living in a two-parent home,".....


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Posted by Family Member
a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Dear loving friends of JP and caring community members ~

Thank you so much for your heartfelt thoughts and prayers for beautiful JP. I would like to share two other poems that were selected in his memory by his parents. Please read them and keep him in your thoughts.

WHEN TOMORROW STARTS WITHOUT ME

When tomorrow starts without me and I am not there to see,
If the sun should rise and find your eyes are filled with tears for me,
I wish so much you wouldn't cry, the way you did today,
While thinking of the many things we didn't get to say.

I know how much you loved me, as much as I loved you.
And each time you think of me I know you'll miss me too...

When tomorrow starts without me, don't think we're far apart,
For everytime you think of me, I'm right there in your heart.

MEMORY OF ME by Carol Mirkel

I'd like the memory of me
To be a happy one.
I'd like to leave an afterglow
Of smiles when life is done.

I'd like the tears
Of those who grieve,
To dry before the sun
Of happy memories that I leave
When life is done.


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Posted by Family Member
a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2009 at 2:59 pm

To all the Palo Alto community and beyond, friends, parents, teachers and family. The Blanchard Family has been tremendously overwhelmed by the support everyone has expressed. We wish to offer our thanks at this difficult moment, but would also appreciate it if anyone has any more memories to share. The Blanchard Family has created an e-mail account that we would welcome any fond memories to be sent to:

InMemoryOfJP@gmail.com

With much appreciation.


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Posted by New Eagle Teacher
a resident of another community
on May 11, 2009 at 5:17 pm

JP's teachers and community in Pennsylvania are saddened by the news. Please know that our thoughts are with The Blanchard Family. JP is remembered as a fun, energetic and bright student.


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Posted by bernard
a resident of Mountain View
on May 15, 2009 at 12:44 am

You always hear parents or friends should identify when people may be having problems by signs that they give out. You also hear that parents or friends should talk or spend time listening to people who you think are having problems. It's easy to say but hard to do. When people with problems give out signs such as being moody or acting up, parents look at it as misbehaving. Other people just think you're full of problems and avoid you. Or just say people with problems manage to bring up their problems to their friends, their friends don't even think it's a big deal, or they might look you as someone that boring or complaining all the time. I personally think part of the fault are friends and family that's not recognizing the signs. Instead of helping, they just tell the person with the problem to stop complaining or whatever. So to all the parents and older adults who always have advice and answers, you should do what you preach.

I'm not a parent but I'm glad to say that I have heard hours and hours of people's problems. I believe that I may have prevented something bad from happening. What I hate the most is no one listens to me. I can't say I'm the happiest person on earth, but I've been trying my best to hold myself up because I am convinced that no one can or is willing to help me. I am always very quiet and private because I don't like to waste people's time listening to my problems. When I talk, people either lose interest, find it boring, or look at it as whining. That's why I fully understand and so willing to help by listening to people's problems. I don't want people to go through what I have always been going through. If I knew the student at Gunn, I bet you I would've been able to reverse his decisions. I know it. So to all you parents, teachers, friends, etc. who keep saying to talk to people with problems, don't say it. DO IT!


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Posted by Cyndi
a resident of another community
on May 28, 2009 at 12:11 pm

I am so sorry about JP. I just found out just yesterday from another member of JP's family. My throughts and prayer is with the Blanchard's Family. I know JP (an angel) is now looking over all of us.


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Posted by Close friend
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 28, 2009 at 5:54 pm

So many people are speculating his death, and spreading rumors about why it happened. All the rumors are making it more painful for people coping with this tragedy. People should stop talking about why it happened, because no one knows the full story and details except for his girlfriend and a few other close friends. He hid his feelings quite well from most people, and was very selective about who he shared his true feelings with.

Please do not continue the spread of these horrible stories and rumors.


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Posted by Gunn Student
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 19, 2009 at 1:11 am

I agree about avoiding spreading rumors


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