“He always wanted to take care of the underdogs, the ones that were kind of left behind,” Cindi Rivas said of her nephew, Drew Ferraro, who authorities say committed suicide last week by jumping off a three-story building during lunch period at Crescenta Valley High School. “He would go over there and make himself one of them just because he didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable.”
Drew was born without fear, his parents and two sisters said in a eulogy that was read by Montrose Church Pastor Gabby Leon, and by the age of 5 had had more staples and stitches than most adults.
He was sneaky, and loved to scare people, just like his dad, they said. He was also sarcastic and always ribbing those closest to him. They recounted a more recent stunt in which Drew striped naked, wrapped himself in bubble wrap and ran down the street.
“For those not fortunate enough to know his laugh, it is a tragedy,” his family said. “He had one of those laughs that made a person laugh even louder. It was infectious and wonderful. Drew’s giggle was the most fantastic ever, it could bring a smile to anyone.”
More than just a school is distraught, an entire community is in shock. Information is limited, and answers are few while the questions are many. Why would a teenager do such a horrific thing? What caused him to take his own life at all, let alone in such a dramatic and public way?
How could no one see him climbing a roof? How could no one see he was troubled?
Teenage tragedy is not uncommon. Unfortunately, tragic things can happen to anybody and everybody. Many of us have dealt with similar situations in our lifetime. I am not immune. I know what it’s like to have a friend die tragically at such an early age, and how it sends shock waves and unanswered questions through a school, a district, a community.
There are conflicting reports about what took place on Friday. Bullying may or may not have been a factor.
But by all accounts, he comes from good parents, a loving family; his friends were all close-knit, and they all hung out together doing normal 21st century kid stuff. The saddest thing about something like this is that everyone seeks answers and signs and solutions that don’t always exist.
I’m sure his parents and friends thought they knew him well (and they most likely did), but that did not prevent this horrible thing from happening. Still, a boy has killed himself. People knew him well, but didn’t know what he kept secret from them.
I personally hid a lot of pain clandestinely behind a smile, behind the sharp wit of an irreverent sense of humor. Sometimes I lashed out in anger, or acted obnoxiously, but no one (especially my parents) knew the hurt I was hiding.
The reality is there is no fail-safe way of knowing how to prevent something as devastating as what that student did from happening. Sometimes the cries for help are deafening, other times they can seem inaudible. Parents have it rough because they are guardians and disciplinarians first and friends last, but there needs to be a healthy balance.
Parents have to create a safe and open environment for their children to be secure in coming to them in any situation, but even if their kids come to them nine times out of 10, that 10% could be where they hide their deepest pain.
The reality is, there may never be answers to the questions so many seek. Perhaps the best we can hope for when tragedies like this occur is for a heightened sense of community, of awareness: not only of the cares and concerns of others, but our own and how we deal with them both internally and externally.
We all need to be better communicators, but we need to be even better listeners. This polarizing event needs to serve as a reminder that we need to be there for one another beyond the very words we often say, that we need to act on what we say.
So friends and family, be thankful for those who are in your lives because they can be gone before tomorrow. Be a comfort to one another, be a harbor in the storm, be a beacon in the abyss. Be honest because life is precious, life is a gift and life is beautiful.