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Train death identified as Gunn grad Brian Taylor

Original post made on Jan 24, 2010

The young man who stepped in front of a Caltrain Friday night has been identified as Brian Bennion Taylor, 19, a 2008 graduate of Gunn High School -- where he was a member of the varsity wrestling and tennis teams and active in student affairs. ==B Related story:==
■ [Web Link Another Palo Alto train death at West Meadow]

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, January 24, 2010, 12:00 PM

Comments (87)

Posted by Again Saddened
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 24, 2010 at 12:34 pm

I am so sorry that a vibrant young life is now gone, and so sorry he had to suffer with a mental illness at the end of his life. My deepest sympathies to this young man's large family.

Posted by Midtown Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2010 at 12:43 pm

It is very sad to hear this news. I am sure they will impact our young students and his former teachers at Gunn. His mental sickness were so bad that he saw no other way to get out of them. I know how this is I had a mentally ill like him in my family. For Brian was probably worst because he had a great life before he got sick, but after that hes whole life crumbled down. God may have him in a place where he can no longer have the symptoms of this awful sickness. I pray for his family including his brothers and sisters if he has any.

Posted by HS Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Marian - every mother in Palo alto shares your loss. In the midst of your great sadness, please know how grateful we are for your willingness to share your son's struggles with all of us. May he rest in peace and in the grace of God.

Posted by Brian Good
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 24, 2010 at 2:01 pm

I bet more money has been spent on police and security guards than it would cost to just fence that crossing off.

An article in the Mercury last October cited the allure of "suicide hot spots" and pointed out that impulsive techniques like trains and guns are a completely different animal from pre-meditated alternatives like knives, ropes, pills, and cars. It also pointed out successful actions taken before to deny access to "hot spots" at Duke Ellington Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C., Augusta River Bridge, Switzerland"s Muenster Terrace, and Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, England. When the site was closed the chain of suicides ended. and nearby alternative sites were not used.

The article quotes Dr. Mel Blaustein, who published a study of Golden Gate Bridge suicides in the American Journal of Psychiatry. "If you can stop them from dying at your railroad tracks, there's a great likelihood they will not try it again," Blaustein said. "Suicide 'hot spots' become the place to go; there's a specialness about them," he said. "If you stop it, it loses its mystery and magic."

Eve Meyer, executive director of San Francisco Suicide Prevention said: "Barriers work. Conventional wisdom says that people might go to other places to kill themselves. But conventional wisdom has been proven to be wrong."

Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 24, 2010 at 2:17 pm

What about putting a mosquito sound emitter at all railroad crossings in Palo Alto. The mosquito can be heard as an extremely high annoying buzz to teenagers, but adults can't hear it. It was designed as a deterrant outside 7 11 type places to stop teenagers congregating outside and it worked for that. Now maybe it can be used to stop a teenager hanging around the train tracks.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I'm going to be blunt. Not trying to hurt feelings here - but just trying to give you a reality check.

Fencing the Meadow crossing will not stop the suicides on the CalTrain tracks. Sorry but that's the truth.

The latest suicide happened up the line from the guarded crossing. If the guard or parent watchers didn't see the young man enter the area - then that means he either hopped the fence up the line or entered from an unmonitored intersection or station area up the line.

I don't want to be accused of providing any alternative ideas to anyone who is at risk. So I won't give any specific/obvious examples of defeating the obvious watch points.

The barriers that Ms. Meyer refers to are barriers that completely seal off the opportunity - which removes the location/icon from consideration. Such will be the case when the Golden Gate Bridge finally gets the barrier/netting installed.

However, fencing a crossing (or several crossings in a row) will not provide a complete barrier to the tracks. You could close Charleston, Meadow and Churchill and it will still be very, very easy to find your way onto the tracks.

Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 24, 2010 at 2:24 pm

May God provide love and support for this family. He sounds like an exceptional, caring young man who struggled much.

Posted by Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 24, 2010 at 2:26 pm

@parent: you realize that if they put one of those up, teens won't go near the tracks, right? if you have a mosquito sound emitter at the tracks, then teens aren't going to cross or go near them at all. which is kinda a problem when you consider they go through the middle of our town.

Posted by Annoying noise is not a solution
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 24, 2010 at 2:26 pm

People live next to the tracks. Some of them have children. Creating a sound which is annoying enough to keep teenagers off the tracks is going to make their homes uninhabitable.

Also, if guards and fences aren't stopping people, it strikes that a noise won't be effective either.

Posted by qq
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 24, 2010 at 2:43 pm

As I have said before, this statement is false.

"Taylor was hit by a southbound train at 11:45 p.m. Friday about 150 yards north of the Meadow Drive crossing"


Posted by 05 graduate
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Hi my name is Lily I graduated from Gunn in 05. My mom works in the kitchen at Gunn and has told me stories of these teens and the trains. I just wanted to put it out there that I have created a group on facebook called "Dare". Now I am no phsychologest or anything like that but I remember when I went to Gunn it wasn't an easy place. I made the group so that anyone who feels like they want to talk, make a friend, have someone listen, I am here. I dont judge, and I will keep it confidental. So if anyone needs a friend stop by the site, I will put my e-mail on there so you can get my number we can text whatever there are people who care.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Our thoughts and prayers go out to this family.

Posted by Too Competative ?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 24, 2010 at 3:48 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by parent of a 19 year old
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2010 at 3:58 pm

We are so sorry for your loss. Thinking of you and your family with compassion and hoping that you find peace.

Posted by concerned gunn parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 24, 2010 at 4:17 pm

I want to say thank you to Marian Taylor for sharing a bit of what may have driven her son to take his own life. As a Gunn parent, I am constantly questioning myself, my parenting, wondering if the mix of encouraging my child to do what needs to be done to survive at Gunn and get into college vs. supporting her emotional needs is the right mix etc. Not knowing what is driving all these kids makes parents like me nervous about what we maybe need to do differently. I don't think it's just the competition at Gunn. Brian already graduated and the 8th grade girl hadn't even started Gunn. I believe there are other factors, different for each kid, but I have no facts to support this. I offer my deepest condolences to Brian's family and to the other families as well who have lost their children. Any advice they have to our community parents (and kids for that matter)is most appreciated.

Posted by Stella
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 24, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I'm so sorry for your loss. I hope you are surrounded by loving friends and family that can help you bare the pain. God Bless

Posted by Anon Amos
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Jan 24, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Condolences to the Taylor Family and their loss. Given their sons medical condition, their situation is far more complicated than other local students who've ended their life.

In general, parents need to let their kids mature normally. The inappropriate pressure put on kids starts in elementary school, with heroic attempts to get into charter schools, etc. If parents would just let their kids mature normally and learn how to grow & develop from both success and failures, then these kids wouldn't think suicide is the only answer to their problems.

Posted by Seema
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 24, 2010 at 5:05 pm

deepest condolences to the family.

I graduated with Brian, he was in my econ class. I didn't know him very well, but he was a nice guy.

Posted by Barron Park Parent
a resident of Barron Park School
on Jan 24, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Annon Amos, thands you for remind me about letting our kids to mature normally. You reminded me about the college bound program at BarronPark, last year my child attended, and one of his classmates who was in the college bound program for the whole year, was not allowed to participate in the end of the year party for the college bound students. The reason not doing her homework, after she had signed a contract promising to do it. Her mother tried to convince the teacher and principal to let her participate but no luck. The program is good but it puts young children in a lot of pressure, and hen students are not meeting expectations they are put in a contract and they are threatened with dropping them out of the program. This is a lot of pressure for elementary school students. I think it needs to stop.

Posted by amerr
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 24, 2010 at 5:20 pm

americans are a self deprecating nation. just condolences,but no thought of the reality of death. thatsprecisely why these people dont want to live. you just spout routine condolences rather than point to violence inherent in a competition based ''society''. americanshave accepted death as a part of he machine of their country. you dont like this death dealing society,we just say godspeed and the like. why bothergiving condolences. you do not care about these young people,or even each other.

Posted by mental health professional
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 24, 2010 at 5:45 pm

I also want to extend my deepest sympathies to the entire Taylor family.......and thank Marian for speaking out about Brian's struggle with mental illness, that can't have been easy, especially in this time of anguish and loss.

As a mental health care professional I'm acutely aware that the risk of suicide among those with mental illness remains very real despite the best intentions of concerned family, friends and health care professionals. Mental illness can affect anyone of us: the rich and the poor, the highly educated and the illiterate, heads of companies and the never employed, pressured Palo Alto high school student or not.

The following quote is from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website (a wonderful resource for information & support for individuals and families affected by mental illness):

"Findings from psychological autopsy (PA) studies, where the individual’s state of mind prior to the suicide is determined through extensive interviews and review of medical history, indicate that about 90 percent of persons who completed suicides in all age groups had a diagnosable mental or substance abuse disorder. In other words, having a mental or substance abuse disorder is nearly a necessary condition for suicide to occur."

Posted by parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Having known several teens and adults struggling with mental illness, this is way more complex than parents or schools being responsible. I've know parents who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to stave off the inevitable. If someone is intent on self-destruction despite the cause, they will find a way. The judeo-christian tradition wants to believe otherwise, why believe in a god or goodness. This is where religion leads people astray. There is very little we can do. Other than being supportive and being there during the crisis. But how often does that happen?

Posted by Jon
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2010 at 6:25 pm

The USA has a relatively low rate of suicide, among the industrialized countries. Web Link

As "mental health professional" said, there are intense associations with mental illness and substance abuse. Mental illness has a genetic association. However, there would appear to be a societal issue involved, because Mexico, with all its economic stresses and its fair share of alcohol consumption, has a low rate of suicide. China has a very high rate of female suicide, possibly related to the devaluation of girls in that society.

There is very little evidence that "violence inherent in a competition based ''society'' " is the cause of suicide in this country.

Posted by ninadora
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2010 at 6:44 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by mental health professional
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 24, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Wait a sec, bipolar disorder IS treatable and is by no means terminal, many diagnosed with bipolar are highly productive(and happy) members of society. Schizophrenia can be a bit more difficult but still treatable, and Brian's mother indicated he was diagnosed with both disorders. There are medications that do help a great deal, and there is hope. I do take your point 'ninadora' that research money in this area is well spent.
Compassion and proper treatment for those afflicted is needed, and education for all about mental illness is paramount....

Posted by Brian Good
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 24, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Crescent Park Dad, your claim that if the crossing were closed the kids would simply go somewhere else is contrary to scientific studies and irresponsible.

At four suicide "hot spots" it was found that when the spot was closed, people did not use nearby sites.

I already had this debate last October with several people who told me that closing the crossing was impractical, it wouldn't happen, it wouldn't work, the kids would just hang themselves, the answer is to make society more caring, the answer is to give psychiatric counseling to all teenagers, who cares anyway, if somebody wants to kill themselves they should be allowed to... blah, blah, blah.

And I told them that when they argued against a simple and inexpensive measure that could be implemented within a week, they were taking on the responsibility for the next death. And now you are taking on the responsibility for the next one.

Science shows that when you close the "hot spot", would-be suicides do not gravitate to other means or other sites.

Posted by trackwatch supporter
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 24, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Thank you, mental health professional, for making those extremely valid points.
My heart goes out to the family and friends of this young man.

Posted by trackwatch supporter
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 24, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Thank you for posting that information. As an MD, I did an extensive search of the medical literature on this and you are absolutely right. Study after study of suicide clusters support the idea that limiting access to lethal means decreases the number of suicides.
So, while screening for depression and suicidalty are vitally important, and will clearly be the best solution, limiting access in the meantime IS important as well.

Posted by kn
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2010 at 8:23 pm

I'd like to extend my deepest condolences to the Taylor family in this difficult time. My thoughts and prayers to to you and Brian, may you rest in peace in Heaven and God bless your soul.

Posted by Fred
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jan 24, 2010 at 8:32 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Jonas Haro
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 24, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Brian, was a good kid and a wonderful person to coach. We are all hurting by this event. I will not forget him and his smile after wrestling practice. All of us at Gunn and the Wrestling team will miss him so very much. From our family to the Taylor's our deepest condolences. God be with him!! Good night Brian...

Posted by VZ
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 24, 2010 at 8:44 pm

I played tennis with him for two glorious years. He was always kind and I don't have a single memory of him not smiling. I'll miss him dearly, and I hope that his family will stay strong. Bye Brian.

Posted by West Meadow resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 24, 2010 at 9:00 pm

We are saddened to hear another life has been taken. Our sincerest condolences to the Taylor family.

Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2010 at 9:03 pm

I did not know this young man nor any of the other recent victims of suicide and I'm sorry for the losses of all their friends and family. This is sad and very tragic. My condolences to the family and friends of Brian. I hope there is something learned here that can possibly lead to helping others. Again I'm very sorry to hear about these kinds of events.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 24, 2010 at 9:12 pm

I went to school with his father since age 12. His father is a gentle, kind, patient individual. What a tragedy. I am so saddened to hear of this. Thank you, Marian, for shedding light on the situation for the rest of us parents.

Posted by Fred
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jan 24, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Thank you moderator for removing my post. It is essential that we feel good about ourselves above all else.

If there is a cultural reason that has contributed to the specific upbringing/environment that has lead to the deaths of these people, that is not important. In fact, even introducing that subject could be considered hate-speech and therefore, those issues should never, ever be discussed, no many how many people are dead.

Posted by GunnDad
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 24, 2010 at 9:36 pm

My deepest sympathies to the Taylors. They are good folks who have reason to be proud of their kids and how they were raised.

As to the fence,while monitors help at the crossings, the only way to police the length of the tracks through the city is to install day/night cameras at regular intervals. New learning software now exists that can monitor very large numbers of camera images for unusual activity, forwarding only the very unusual activity or image to a real person. These could be sent within seconds to the train, along with a warning to brake, or with an automatic braking instruction. Any person or animal of a certain size climbing the fence or entering at a break in the fence would immediately trigger this signal. Putting a system like that in place in Palo Alto for the length of the track should be affordable, possibly at a cost that is less than the current patrol, and could be paid for in part by Caltrain, which is clearly harmed financially and otherwise by these tragedies.

Posted by Jonas Haro
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 24, 2010 at 9:47 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Mandy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2010 at 10:18 pm

My condolences and prayers are with the Taylor family.
For concerned community members, the PTA Council has posted some resources and well as some expert presentations from a panel we held last fall. Web Link
I am grateful to the parents and community members who have supported the Track Watch program; as others have pointed out, data supports the "hot spot" attraction.

Posted by xacked
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 24, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Mrs. Taylor I am so sorry for your loss, it is absolutely beyond my comprehension what you and your family are going through.

Posted by Let it rest
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2010 at 11:04 pm

By Fred, "I am interested in reading your views about what is unique to the Gunn HS population/environment that is causing the suicides."

What you clearly do not understand, Fred, is that nothing at Gunn is causing the suicides. Read about clusters and educate yourself rather than aggravating those who are grieving with your remarks. Suicide clusters happen all across the country, it crosses all socio-economic boundaries. The experts are not clear of the causes so if it is a mystery to them then none of us will have the answers that you are looking for. Do some research online if you have the time and that may help you sort out your questions better than opinions of those who are grieving.

Posted by Midtown Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 24, 2010 at 11:29 pm

I do agree with the person who says camaras and detectors will work better than the guards and track watchers. I am with with the track watch and we have asked the city and Police Departments, but they do not want to do it. For now watching the tracks is better than nothing. Perhaps if more parents joined and ask for camaras, they will end up listening. It will be worth it to keep asking so we can save our young people and any one else who steps at the tracks.

Posted by another Gunn parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 25, 2010 at 12:12 am

Thank you Marian for bravely sharing your story with us. Our nephew is a paranoid schizophrenic. Symptoms developed his senior year of high school but he was not fully diagnosed until he was 21 or 22. Treatment is available but compliance is a daily struggle. He is now almost 30.

My daughter was in class with Brian. He was a great kid! My deepest condolences to you and your wonderful family. We share your loss.

Posted by Kerry from Sunnyvale
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2010 at 12:31 am

On Saturday, the day before the story of Brian's suicide hit the news, I was trying to find a cause on Facebook Causes to raise money for. All these teen suicides that have been happening in our community lately led me to do a search for a teen suicide cause and I found this one: Depression & Suicide Awareness in Adolescents/Young Adults which is through NARSAD, National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression. PLEASE consider donating to this cause. Web Link
Brian's death, further enforces the need for Suicide Awareness. Thank you!!

@Lily, that is great that you started a group on Facebook. I searched for DARE and found many groups with that name. Please post a link. Thanks!

Posted by .
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 25, 2010 at 2:50 am

i live near the area and as i was heading towards my car for work i heard the commotion, once i was in my car i could see the train stalled and i knew what happened. my condolences for these young minds.

Posted by Thank you and my prayers with all of you
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 25, 2010 at 5:43 am

Marian, your faith amazes and inspires me. I hope I can continue developing the kind of faith you have that is helping you and your family through your grief.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and background with us. My daily prayers go with you, Brian and all your family.

Posted by Fred
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jan 25, 2010 at 8:43 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Fred
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jan 25, 2010 at 9:08 am

Good luck to you folks. You have no answers and yet you are not open to discussion regarding a search for answers. I can only wish you luck.

Posted by Parents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2010 at 9:48 am

To provide some context for some of the arguments above over "cause" (some of which are far too fatalistic, given the facts):

Suicide and Friendships Among American Adolescents
Peter S. Bearman, PhD and James Moody, PhD
January 2004, Vol 94, No. 1, American Journal of Public Health 89-95.

(From the Conclusion section)
"For both adolescent males and females, having a friend who had attempted suicide increased their own odds of attempting suicide, above and beyond the effect on suicidal ideation (male OR = 1.71, female OR = 1.68). This was the only commonality; the differences between the boys and the girls were marked. For girls, having high
self-esteem prevented attempts among girls reporting suicidal ideation (OR = 0.80), whereas frequency of drunkenness increased suicide attempts (OR = 1.24). For boys, having a gun in the household increased the likelihood of an attempt (OR = 1.60), whereas being part of a school with a higher relative density of friendship ties (a more tightly knit school community) strongly reduced the odds of attempting suicide (OR = 0.05)."

There's more in the article that could help for the future -- this is complicated, yes, and no one's fault, but there are things that can be done to help others (our kids) for the future.

The train is an available means, like a gun; but unlike a gun, we cannot remove it from our collective household. But we can do other things: for boys "being part of a school with a higher relative density of friendship ties (a more tightly knit school community) strongly reduced the odds of attempting suicide." (Elsewhere in the article it points out that boys whose friends are not friends with each other face additional pressures.)

We may not be able to stop every tragedy. We realistically cannot eliminate depression. Nevertheless, we can take steps to strongly reduce the odds that students with thoughts of suicide then act on those thoughts. That has policy implications, such as the structure of our school administration, the size of student bodies, the impact of school on family life, and more. And it takes work and careful thought about how we can foster more supportive environments. I don't see that happening, in fact, I see a lot happening at the district level that only works counter to that. To me, it just feels like they're waiting for the crisis to blow over.

We do not have to be fatalistic about this. We CAN take steps to lessen the chance that this will happen again. But there are no quick fixes.

We can foster more supportive school communities without hurting quality of education.

Posted by Youth Rep
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 25, 2010 at 10:26 am

These kids need our help!

So some of our local youth are inviting you and your friends to join us for a few minutes this Wednesday night at 7:00PM to pray over the train's Meadow Drive Crossing in Palo Alto.

Please step out in faith and join us there! Make a difference. PRAY!

Please send forward to all your friends, churches, and parents.

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2010 at 11:12 am

Youth Rep,

Please do not congregate at the train crossings,

you've missed the info on how irresponsible it is to make a scene out of this type of tragedy

your prayers can be heard from anywhere, congregate at your church or anywhere else,

Posted by Parents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2010 at 11:16 am

Fred and Let It Rest,
LIR, you are being too fatalistic. You are right that clusters are a phenomenon - knowing someone who has committed suicide does increase the odds. But it's not the only factor. For example, (for boys) "being part of a school with a higher relative density of friendship (a more tightly knit school community)" strongly reduces odds of attempting suicide.

Our schools have in recent years been getting larger and larger. The district is in the process of planning to make them even larger to accommodate projected growth. Much research connects schools over a certain size (not coincidentally, we have schools of such size) with certain problems, including less dense social networks. (I've even seen a research paper that connected behavior changes in school administrators with school size, i.e., individuals tend to become more authoritarian when schools reach a certain size -- interesting connection to another thread going on right now.)

Fred is right, there are things about our current school environments that, let's say, don't do nearly as much as possible to reduce the odds of students acting on suicidal thoughts,and even act counter to it. We can't eliminate the fact that there's been a cluster. We can't get rid of the train (unless it gets undergrounded). But there are things we can do. Let's focus on those. It seems to me those measures would not only help our schools, but our larger community.

Posted by Please reconsider
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2010 at 11:27 am

Youth Rep

Your care and concern are well-intentioned, but, as a mental health professional I ask you to please hold your event away from the site of these deaths by suicide.

This is a critical time and increased publicity (however well meaning) at the site of these deaths is dangerous.

Mrs. Taylor - your willingness to speak publicly about Brian's mental health issues - especially at this devastating time - is heroic. If you have shown through example even one other parent that it is OK to come forward and speak with school/primary care/mental health about their child's mental health issues, you have probably saved a life. My deepest sympathy to you and your family.

Posted by michael james
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 25, 2010 at 11:30 am

if these tragic looses had been murders
the police would be putting much more effort into a solution
does anyone know the approximate amount palo altans pay per year for police protection (salaries)?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 25, 2010 at 11:40 am

Youth Rep,

Congregating on the tracks is glorifying the tracks. Bad idea.

Praying is complacent. The superintendent and School Board need to do something about the rigorous academics/pressures facing our students BEFORE they become depressed, not after ("we have counseling available"). When a person finally seeks counseling, they are already far gone. And most do not seek counseling.

Posted by cieboy
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 25, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Agree with the others- youth rep please gather somewhere other than at the tracks. God will still hear you promise!
Condolences to Taylor's family, especially to his courageous mother.

Posted by concerned MD
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 25, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Agree with the concerns expressed to youth rep.
Please meet ANYWHERE but the tracks.
Your motives are kind, but please, please do not do anything to further 'ritualize' that area.

Posted by parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 25, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Per Robert Cruickshank, Chairman of the Board of Directors of "Californian for High Speed Rail"

"Palo Alto leadership also appears to not care as much about the death toll on the at-grade tracks either. You’d think that elected officials would place an extremely high priority on anything that would make the corridor safer and save lives."

1) this lobbying organization will stoop to any level necessary (trash, gutter or lower), to push its "high speed rail through Caltrain corridor" agenda, even to the unfathomable point of capitalizing on tragedy.

2) The necessary action to protect our kids now is to fix the caltrain track hazard, NOT to add more, faster trains. Caltrain can and must be fixed without High Speed Rail. Appropriate fixes include legislation that will permanently protect the safety of neighborhoods where trains and kids pass through: a) close the tracks completely, b) require undergrounding of all trains in proximity to schools and school crossings c)severe speed limit restrictions within proximity to schools/school crossings. Any at or above grade options will continue to be a safety hazard.

Posted by Gunn grad of 08
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 25, 2010 at 1:34 pm

I was on the wrestling team with Brian, and student government as well. He would always ask me for rides home, and I enjoyed the conversations and jokes we would share on the ride down the rode. He was a great guy with a wonderful sense of humor, and he was always fun to be around. I really can't express how devastating this affair is, and I send my greatest condolences to his family. The very last thing I said to him was "I hope it works out for the best." I hope wherever he is now, things are working out. I don't think Palo Alto can take any more of this abuse, and I live in fear now thinking all my friends from high school who were troubled may follow in these footsteps.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 25, 2010 at 2:28 pm

@ Brian Good: First - If you want to close the crossings, then close the crossings, that's better than doing nothing - I'm sure there will be some measure of success...but it won't stop it outright. And that's my concern - we'll just be geographically shifting the outcome, not solving the symptoms or causes.

I am not disputing the statistics that you cite. But our unfortunate reality is that it is very easy to access the "hot spots" despite posting a guard or caring parents.

The GGB example will work because the barrier and net will provide a 100% stopping point. There will be no way to successfully jump off the bridge once everything is in place.

But unfortunately it is not that simple along the CalTrain tracks. Reluctantly, I'll give you some examples - fence the Meadow crossing and still patrol Charleston or fence Charleston crossing too or fence everything from the Palo Alto station south. OK - the determined person would either:

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I can give more examples, but I think you see my point.

I've got no objection to fencing the crossings. I'm sure it will provide some measure of reduction in attempts. But the problem is that just within the city limits there are still many, many ways to get on the tracks.

Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 25, 2010 at 2:51 pm


I'm not sure the HSR is as "trash, gutter or lower" as you put it. I have had the same thought that they've expressed. You're against HSR, you're concerned about the kids, and your answer is to get rid of the tracks all together? The tracks that have been there since the mid 1800's? That sort of logic tends to lean towards blaming the trains themselves. Again, dangeroulsy short-sighted.

Don't say that it's not the school or the pressures these kids face. It's pretty obvious that we are collectively missing something here, maybe we should ask the kids first before we point fingers in every direction.

Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 25, 2010 at 3:24 pm

My deepest condolences to the Taylor family. There are no adequate words for such a tragedy.

Posted by 08grad
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 25, 2010 at 6:04 pm

I was in many of Brian's classes and looking back I wish I would have gotten to know him better. He really was an amazing person and God is so blessed to have him in Heaven.

Posted by Brian's Roommate from College
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Brian was one of those people you never forget. He was incredibly talented, always entertaining (probably one of the funniest people I have ever met), and was someone cared about the things that mattered to him most--his family, god, and friends. I can't express how much I am going to miss him.

My heart goes out to his family.

a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 25, 2010 at 7:01 pm

My nephew was diagnosed the year he graduated from Paly with schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia disease hits young adults and removes the pleasure of living a full life for them.

One summer afternoon, he finally had an outburst that scared his parents andthe police were called. They had him committed to Valley Medical Hospital at first for observation. Then he was placed into a "half way" house in San Jose. He was gang raped at the house. He was moved again and not long after that was diagnosed with Aids. He deteriorated and died of Aids in the Santa Clara County Valley Medical Hospital from it, alone and bedridden at the last stage.

That was in late 1980 before the drugs we have today for Aids was avaiable. What a horrible death he had, if he was not put into the psych ward then, I am sure he would have been one fatalitality for Cal Train.

Mental illness is horrible, no matter what the age.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 25, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Crescent Park Dad,

You write as if suicide was well-thought out rational act. It's not. Would-be suicides will fixate on a particular method or place or will act on impulse. So shutting off a hotspot can help.

Worth thinking about--many of the GGB suicides cross a bridge on their way to kill themselves on the GGB. The Bay Bridge, apparently, just doesn't cut it.

Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Please don't list suggested ways people might access the tracks.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 25, 2010 at 9:11 pm

Marian and Family - Thank you for sharing Brian's story. He sounds like he made the most of his life. I am so sorry that he decided to stop. My heart aches for him and for all people who struggle with mental illness. Hopefully by your sharing Brian's story others who struggle with mental illness will feel that there are many of us care and encourage them to get help. May peace and love be with you, your family and Brian.

Posted by a mother who's been there
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Schizophrenia effects 1% of the population, worldwide. Bi-polar also effects 1% of the population, worldwide. Often the two diseases are misdiagnosed as the other. Here is something I did not know, until my own son was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 16: here in the US, a person with schizophrenia stands a one in three chance of recovering from the illness (33% recovery rate.) But did you know that a person with schizophrenia in a "third world" country has a TWO in three chance of recovery (66% recovery rate)? Our high-expectation, rule-bound, industrial world can only show a 33% recovery rate in comparison to 66% recovery rate in developing countries. The World Health Organization studies have been confirmed many times over, even by universities. And the reason? Many researchers believe that there is less stigma and "societal punishment" for having the disease.... that amounts to less stress, more acceptance and tolerance for people to heal.

"The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 90 percent of those who get inadequate treatment for schizophrenia are in developing countries. Despite this fact, a 1960s study by WHO discovered that the recovery rate for schizophrenia in these developing countries was actually HIGHER than in industrialized areas of the world [source: Sartorius]. In addition, a follow-up study that attempted to correct possible selection biases in the initial study confirmed this finding. Whereas only a third of schizophrenics in the industrialized countries recover completely, almost two-thirds recover in developing countries [source: Warner].

Many theories try to account for this drastic disparity. One links it to the fact that there is less of a stigma attached to the disorder in third world countries. The people in those communities are perhaps more tolerant and accepting of schizophrenics. Another theory claims that someone with schizophrenia benefits from productive employment which fits the individual's abilities. This is hard to achieve in competitive, industrialized societies."

Posted by Carlito W.
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 25, 2010 at 10:41 pm

My sincere condolences for Brian's familiy, and at the same time my heart goes out to all those afflicted with any kind of mental illnes, keep up the good fight, some days are better than others but the sun always rises.
To the mental health expert that said " bipolar disease IS treatable, as well as schizophrenia,with medications that make them happy and productive persons", such statement sounds like a tv commercial. I am around people dealing with this type of illness and let me tell you the percentage of patients fitting your description is very low, the majority end up all losing some of the traits that would make them happy and productive persons, due to the multiple side effects of the medications. Specially bipolar patients, I have a friend with this debilitating disease that the only time this person was happy and productive person was when the maniac state hit(too bad only lasted about 2 months) then there goes into the depressive state for the rest of the year, then it was time to try again medications and believe me the picture is not rosy as you want people believe. By the way my friend has two of the best brains in pschiatry and psicology in the state, which somehow keep this person barely functional, too bad she can not be a happy and productive person as society defines it.

Anyways for you people out there, let's try not to be judgmental when you, see somebody who you think is little different than you, somebody at the check out line who is slow trying to figure out how much money has to hand over to the clerk, that person walking down the street talking to himself or to an imaginary someone, etc..

People have to demonstrate that they have compassion to all those having a tough time when they are alive, once they are dead all that compassion is HOLLOW.

Posted by Big Brother
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2010 at 10:49 pm

I like the idea of the cameras to patrol the tracks. They will be there someday anyway. There is a documentary out called “The Bridge” and it shows GGB using cameras. I am hopeful to see it. That they are constructing a suicide barrier on this mighty world icon should put to rest any argument that it does not help to intervene.

Being a progressive, I support the High Speed Rail. It will come eventually some where so why not embrace it? I mention this because all the tracks up on pylons sound good to me. Pylons are really tough to climb. I am sorry about the possible eyesore for your million dollar homes. This is wonderful place to live and whether you stay or not because of HSR is no concern of mine. That we stop buying oil from people who shoot at us is. Are very existence requires we abandon the fossil car and the companies that have sickly profited from it.

I spoke with Brian a couple weeks ago. I was identifying with his feelings of no options. I know I have been there. My depression is too about no options. Without depression life is limitless. When I tried to point out more options for him it did not appear to be reaching him and I don’t know why. A few weeks later he seemed better. I am not a doctor and don’t know his actual diagnosis, but I know about my mental illness. The worst thing about the stigma is not that I can’t get a job, an apartment or date if I disclose it; it’s that society says there is something wrong with me if I own it. And I cannot treat something I can’t own. When we can take the “crazy’ out of mental illness more people will treat there illness. There are only two kinds of people, the diagnosed and the undiagnosed.

I am glad we are talking about this, thank you and prayers to you, Brian.

Posted by Zel
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 25, 2010 at 10:50 pm

I have lived in this town for 15 years. I can't remember one time a stranger ever walking by and saying 'Hi'.

I think that there is something very wrong with the 'society' we have here. It is so pervasive that we now consider it is normal. That is disturbing to me.

I can only imagine that if I were to have grown up with this sick social situation, that it would be extremely alienating and deepressing.

Posted by Devastated Midtown Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Big Brother, I like your message to all of us. Yes living with mental illness is horrible. I have a relative who lives with me. She is a great person. When she was 25 she was diagnosed with schizophrenia/bipolar illness. Some days are better than others, but there had been times when she completally cannot function. It is very sad to see her, that she is better and then worst again. Her whole life has change. Her medications make her gained weight and she does not look as good as before taking the medication., but at least she is alive. My children suffer a lot when she has setbacks and she is put in the hospital. We go to visit her, and it is very depressed to see so many people in there who have mental illnesses. I just give thanks to the lord for having healthy children, and pray that they stay healthy. We need to be more considerate of people with mental illness, and not to judge them if they commit suicide, because only God and them knew how hard life was for them. I hope Brian is free now of this mental illness and that God gives his family resignation to put up with so much pain. From what I hear he was a great person. I saw his picture and I see that he was very handsome. He had a great future ahead of him, but this damm sickness took his happiness away. In his name I will try to cheer up a mentally ill person, including my relative. I hope you can do the same.
Please sent messages to the city of Palo alto and Caltrain, and Police dep. asking for Camaras and sensor lights or regular lights at the tracks. Pehaps that way Guards and volunteer parents can see when someone is on the tracks waiting for the train to come and end his/her live.
God Bless you all.

Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2010 at 1:26 am

To Bryan's parents,
I would love to attend the funeral services. Could you please allow me the honor to attend? Can you let me know where and when? Thanks a lot.

Posted by gunn grad 08
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 26, 2010 at 8:28 am

I graduated with Brian. I had Spanish 3 with him my junior year. He was a good person, who was always willing to lend a hand when you needed it. I wish I could have known him better.

Posted by Gunn grad 08
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 26, 2010 at 9:36 am

Though words are hardly adequate, they must suffice here. My deepest condolences to Brian's mother and father, sisters and brothers, and all who knew and loved him.

I attended the same elementary school he did; though we were never more than acquaintances, his death is...profoundly saddening. May God's peace go to comfort those he has now left.

Posted by Emma
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 26, 2010 at 10:24 am

Terrible news. He sounds like a wonderful young man who needed help.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 26, 2010 at 2:05 pm

OhlonePar - I didn't say suicide is a rationale thought.

My point is that people can be very determined in completing their actions when they want to, as illogical as they may seem.

Fencing the Meadow crossing should help. But to believe that fencing just the one crossing will be a 100% full-proof solution to the epidemic is short-sighted. The cause of these tragedies is not being addressed at all.

As far as taking away access to any hot spots, you would have to fence the Charleston, Churchill and Alma crossings too. And you would have to place guards/monitors at the San Antonio, Cal Ave and the PA stations as well. Then you might have a much better result towards prevention.

Posted by Anon Amos
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 26, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Cal Train is not a hazard. We (the community & society) are the hazard that needs to be fixed. There's a huge disconnect between our unrealistic dreams (my kid is a genius) and our reality (I have a perfectly normal kid - Oh, how terrible). What does a kid do when normal is not good enough?

Posted by Ryan Hutchins
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2010 at 5:45 pm

You were one of the coolest kids I knew freshmen year. I wish I had talked with you more especially when I was home this past fall. I know that you are in a better place! You will always be with us. I love you and this world will miss! I wish strength to the Taylor Family!

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2010 at 6:06 pm

I don't think anyone said it's 100 percent. Limiting access, though, *is* part of the solution. This last attempt is not the only one that's occurred in the last few months.

Some suicides are well planned, but many, *particularly* teen suicides are not. They're weirdly and surprisingly spur of the moment.

Those are the suicides a track watch will help prevent.

Of course, other things need to be done. There's no single solution here. We do need to look at why we have a bunch of kids who have ready access to food, clothing and shelter but feel highly stressed and unable to cope. Yes, high school is competitive--but that in and of itself is not a cause of despair.

Posted by Concerned
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2010 at 8:06 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by member
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 27, 2010 at 11:03 am

That guard isn't going to stop anyone from commiting suicide. He is rarely there. Why don't you get an ex-marine to guard. I'm sure you can find a hispanic one too, if need be. A kid can commit suicide while that guard is watching if they wan't to. The extra fencing is ridiculus. You still have to let the train through, idiots. How come all the effort is made outside of the kids? Don't let them commit suicide. What a joke. How about some help inside of those kids. Do you have an app for that?

Posted by Dad
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 27, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Thanks for all the kind thoughts and memories of Brian. All are welcome to attend the memorial service on Saturday. You can go to for more details.

Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 2, 2010 at 10:52 am

Hi, Parents,
Thanks for your invitation. I was at the memorial. It was beutiful to know abut your family and how Bryan was when he was alive. I have never heard of Bryan till the night he died. I do not know if you still around but would like to have few words with you before you leave. I think is important for you, as well as for me. We all need to start the healing process. I think this will help us. How can I get in touch with you. Even if you already left, we can call on the phone.

Posted by Friend
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 29, 2011 at 10:57 pm

I went to middle school and high school with Brian. may he be at peace.

Posted by Vincent Sparry
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 10, 2015 at 7:39 pm

so tragic. will it ever end?

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