Jordan Riak's letter of 9/25/98 to the editor of CNEWS about "Boys' train death."
To the Editor:
Boys' train death was no accident. Had the appropriate authorities investigated and closed down the Robert Land Academy--a snake-pit school typical of the worst--those boys would be alive today. But it's too late now for that--at least for Matthew and Christopher.
Beginning immediately with their deaths, and culminating in the coroner's report, there has been a concerted campaign by the entire community, with considerable aiding and abetting from the media, to ease the shared guilt and responsibility which hangs in the atmosphere like a pall.
Deep in the privacy of their own thoughts, everyone familiar with this incident knows that young men simply do not lay down on railroad tracks in the path of an oncoming freight train by accident. Only someone who is steeped in denial could swallow that.
Now, for the record, let me tell you what really happened and why.
Matthew and Christopher knew that their escape had little chance of success. They knew that it would be only a matter to hours before they would be picked up by the police and hustled back to the school. That's how previous freedom bids ended and they had no doubt it would happen again. They knew exactly what was in store for them once they were returned to the tender mercies of their keepers. With nowhere else to turn and realizing that no one cared enough to help them, they decided to take the only available remaining option. They decided to end it. (Boot camp suicides and suicide attempts are by no means uncommon.) As the train approached, Matthew had a change of heart, but Christopher kept his resolve. Matthew struggled to pull his pal to safety. The train struck them both.
Whenever this sad event is remembered and remarked upon in the future, you can be sure it will be served up with the soothing qualifier: the school's "strict discipline" had nothing to do with the boys' deaths. It is a claim which neither can be proved nor disproved, but should, with good cause, arouse suspicions in any thoughtful observer. And, I fear, this is not the last time we will hear from that tireless chorus of enthusiasts as they intone their favorite mantra about how the Robert Land Academy's "tough-love approach works miracles."
Matthew and Christopher, rest in peace. Nobody can abuse you now.