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In Memory of Bryan Batista

Regular readers of my blog may know that the personal items I post are usually superficial. If you know me, you may give them some deeper meaning, but rarely do I write anything deeply personal. Given the five year anniversary today, I’m making an exception to that rule. For some, this may be a difficult topic, but it’s important to not forget.

From the Daily Targum, October 24, 1999:

Early Saturday morning, University police, responding to a call, found an 18-year-old College of Engineering student dead after he fell nine stories from the McCormick residence hall on the Busch campus.
Bryan G. Batista was pronounced dead shortly after 7:25 a.m. on Saturday, according to a statement released by the University.
The initial call to police was made by a preceptor, according the statement.
Batista apparently jumped from the 10th floor of the residence hall, Leslie Fehrenbach, vice president of administration and public safety, said.
According to the statement, University police said they found Batista on the roof of the first level.
A note, which has been classified as a suicide note, was found in his room in the Davidson residence hall on the Busch campus, Fehrenbach said.
“We really don’t know much more than that at this point, the investigation is ongoing,” she said.
University Police Chief Anthony Murphy said that, based on the investigation and the evidence, they believe the death to be a suicide, but “there are still some people detectives have to speak to.”
“Some people who knew him saw him that night,” he said. Murphy said speaking to those people will “help us establish a time line.”
Fehrenbach said she believed it happened between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m.
But members of the family said they did not believe the 18 year old had committed suicide.

“He was definitely the support system for myself and my family,” his sister, Cassandra, said. The 22 year old described him as “completely grounded, so sincere and really self adjusted.”
His sister said that while she was older, she often felt as if Bryan was the older brother.
She said the North Brunswick High School graduate played guitar and composed piano music.
Cassandra Batista said her brother was “incredibly outgoing and social, (he) had such an engaging personality.”
She said he was “incredibly sensitive, I think really beyond his years.”
Even in his first year of college, she said he had no trouble adjusting.
Cassandra Batista said she had expected her brother to have the same anxiety about starting school that she did, but found that he adjusted quickly and was very happy.
He was pledging a fraternity on campus and participating in activities on campus, she said.
The family is planning a memorial service for tomorrow morning at 11:30 a.m.
The family said they will most likely be having the service at St. Michael’s Church on Davidson Road, but they could not confirm plans until this morning.

The phone rang shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday morning. Elias, the graduate student in charge of our staff, was on the phone. He needed me to come down for an emergency staff meeting. I recall saying something about not caring much for these emergency staff meetings (this was already the second significant emergency staff meeting in the two months I’d taken the position as a preceptor). I can’t recall if I was the first one down, but shortly after those of us who were still around over the weekend were assembled in the staff office in our building. The mood was not upbeat.

Tammy had found his body, outside her window on the roof of the connecting passageway between the lowrise and the highrise buildings. Her residents had woken her up coming home from New York City, as they saw someone lying outside on the roof. She’s recalled saying that she was hoping he was ok, maybe just drunk. People had been sneaking on to McCormick roofs for years, after all. To top it off, it was her 21st birthday that day. Elias, as he was coming over from the building where his apartment was, had seen the broken window from the 10th floor lounge and suspected immediately what had happened.

Those of us who were there were dispatched to watch the floor lounges until the emergency services crew completed their work. As residents were waking up we didn’t want them congregating, although there were still plenty of vantage points around. At least one of my residents was watching, and although she couldn’t recognize him at the time, they were friends from high school.

The next few days were a jumble of meetings, appointments, counseling sessions for everyone involved, his funeral service, which was attended by a huge number of students and staff from Rutgers. His death affected many people, and there were many people wondering how he could make such a choice.

From my own experiences, I didn’t feel a need to ask that question. Sometimes, there doesn’t feel like you have any other choices. It’s an escape, certainly, but sometimes you don’t feel like there’s any reason not to escape. Coping becomes too exhausting.

For several years, I had a firm belief that I wouldn’t live past twenty. I had been in counseling off and on for a few years, and I’d alternately felt sad, hopeless, and tired. My depression spanned a seven year period, and while there were repreives, moments when I was happy or when I was enjoying myself, it was always there. It was the motivation behind some of my more irrational behaviors. Therre were moments I’d just wanted to give up. I would lie in bed thinking about being erased, about dying. I would be driving on Route 18 over the Raritan River between campuses at night and have visions of steering off the bridge. I was haunted by moments like that, and I wasn’t able to express myself to others.

By the morning of Saturday, October 23rd, I had been living and working through my emotions and was finally coming out the other side. I still had the dark, difficult days, but on the whole I was coming to terms with myself. But while other people were asking why, I found I could understand to a certian extent the whys. I am still here today, and for that I’m quite happy. I saw firsthand how his death affected so many people, including those like myself that never knew im in life. I can say now, though, that I love being alive. I may have my down moments, but I also believe better days are around the corner. That I am strong, and can cope with what life brings my way.

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