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When tragedy strikes, the truth can be a long time in coming

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My daughter Erin Foley has disappeared they have a lead on her location AT&T river walk woods by JCC .. Watertown police our doing search and now getting the dogs to assist . Email sent to the Watertown Daily Times Tuesday at 2:52 a.m.



MAY 15, 2012: Several years ago a Watertown Daily Times reporter – instead of coming to work that Monday – drove to Tupper Lake and hanged himself from a tree near a boat launch.

For all of his abilities as a reporter, Charlie was never close to my other reporters. They didn't share his interests. He didn't join them in their banter. But when my reporters found out Charlie was dead, many of them felt partly to blame. “If we had only made more of an effort to include Charlie in our lives, maybe he would still be alive...”

But probably not.

After going to Charlie's apartment to gather personal effects for his parents in Vermont, I was given Charlie's suicide note. And in the most rational explanation of why he was about to commit an irrational act, Charlie outlined how his desire to kill himself had been set in motion long before he applied to be a reporter in Watertown. The letter assured the people in our newsroom, his family, and his college friends, etc., that they had nothing to do with his decision.

In the absence of facts, we speculate, and nothing creates a larger hole to be filled by speculation than a teenager's suicide.

The suicide of Erin Foley is doing just that. Why did she kill herself? What could have been done to prevent her from killing herself?

And her death is also doing this: Anonymous posters on websites are implicating the Watertown School District administration in contributing to this tragic event. Their summation is this: Erin was being bullied; Watertown High School is a place where bullies roam free; Erin couldn't take the abuse any longer so she created her own peace.

It's a neat and tidy story, but is it true? Where are the specifics to support it? When did the bullying occur at WHS? Who were the culprits? Which teachers and administrators saw the bullying and looked the other way?

And how does anyone know that the alleged bullying only occurred at school? For $42, you could buy a share of Facebook today. But for free, Facebook will connect you to a world of people who will berate you on-line day and night.

The “B” word is everywhere these days, and for good reason. There is plenty of bullying going around. But WHS, like every other high school, has been preaching anti-bullying messages for years. And there is plenty of motivation to do so: bullying results in fights, angry parents, discipline-related paperwork, chaos in classrooms, etc. Even if you are so cynical that you don't believe high school teachers actually love children and want to protect them, you should believe they don't want their teaching day demolished by the collateral damage bullying brings about.

In the days ahead perhaps more will be revealed about the way in which Erin Foley saw the world and her role in it. And it is possible nothing more will be revealed as well.

And if that is the case, all that will remain is the rabid speculation and just one salient fact: Within hours of Erin Foley's death a narrative was developed that allowed some people in our community to use the kind of hate language they say they decry against others who had nothing to do with this tragedy.

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