Thursday, December 10, 2009


The train crossing near my home became a mourning place during the last six months, as four local teens chose to end their lives on separate occasions. The first one, in May, devastated me so much that my blog "Stop, Look, and Listen" was dedicated to the subject of reaching out to others and trying to find a place where we are needed in the world. Movies like Patch Adams come to mind, a story based on the true life devastation of someone who eventually found himself through giving to others. I am one of those who found herself through reaching out to resources around me; it wasn't easy, especially when I experienced personal crises and sometimes found it hard to just get out of bed. Service is not a cure-all, fix-all, but it can help, as we strive to connect with others--especially when things are bad.

In response to the tragedies at the train crossing, a group of dedicated parents and community members formed a group called "Track Watch," to keep a constant eye on the crossing and let the students know there are caring adults who want to make sure more teens won't succumb to this violent end. I spoke with one of the parents recently, as she sat bundled up in her fleece jacket and ear muffs, a lawn chair nearby. Her husband drove up with hot cocoa. She had signed up to volunteer because she knew one of the students who had passed away, and she just wanted to do something to show she cared. Other parents joined the ranks for similar reasons; they felt a connection to the lives of these young people and wanted to make a difference in the outcome of the tragedies. With the round-the-clock vigil since the last suicide, I felt a sense of care and warmth every time I crossed those tracks in my car or on my bike.

The Palo Alto Police Department has now placed private security patrols at the crossing, but I miss the sweet feelings of concern I perceived from the volunteer parents who came to stand vigil night and day for over a month. Palo Alto Track Watch is still working with area professionals and agencies, with an emphasis on gathering resources and information where high school students and their families can go for help. The volunteer focus has changed slightly, leaving observation of the crossing to the paid security guards, but the mission has not: saving lives by vigilance.

  • To find out more about Track Watch in Palo Alto, CA:

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