My thoughts have been with Katelyn Rogers, the 12 year old girl who recently live streamed her own suicide by hanging. My Facebook feed was cluttered with related links centered on the shock over availability of her video: Police Cannot Remove Horrifying Video From Internet, Suicide Goes Viral While Family Grieves, Video Outrage, etc.
I had the most sensible reaction to the information: I immediately Googled the video because I wanted to see it. All I had to do was enter ’12 Year Old Hanging Suicide’ in the search engine, narrow results to videos and eyeball what looked like a video you would shoot on your phone as opposed to what looked like a story about the incident. As of right now, the footage is still up on a classy site named ‘The Gutta’.
Video footage shows a broken girl, small frame, dressed in white, taking a rope and climbing a tree. Crying as she speaks to her live audience, she is apologizing to a few people in particular as she admits her “act of selfishness” and, after a few emotional deep breaths, she kicks something out from under her and the body sort of convulses like suffocation although her arms never raise to address her neck so consciousness is uncertain.
For something like twenty minutes, she slowly swings back and forth under the shade of the tree to the sound of birds and traffic. Finally you hear people calling out from somewhere, as if looking for her. The volume level is smashed by a sudden musical chime and you realize it’s her phone ringing, thundering as it also vibrates, and hearing it absolutely chilled me. It is the final word, somehow, as the video concludes just after.
I would never, in a million years, have even thought to wonder, but the question raised for me was: Why does someone with severe depression choose this as their method of execution? The internet says that death by hanging is immediate if the neck breaks, as well as painless. In other instances you feel a few-second rush and pass out before death…or, you remain conscious “for as long as you can hold your breath” and suffocate in extreme pain.
The online footprint she left is significant. Many lengthy videos can be viewed and analyzed. I watched her, watching herself in video phoning trend, as she consistently checked her image against the camera. Unrefined, throwing around profanity and words like “gay” and “faggot”, a lack of education and culture seemed apparent. I felt bad for her right away on ignorance alone.
In the background you can see the appearance of low-income housing in the details, an unfinished bedroom with filthy carpet and clutter, a sheet hung as a room divider, mattress on the floor, etc. There are always young children around her, climbing on top of the dresser, screaming at the top of their lungs, leading you to assume that she and her siblings were often abandoned by the alleged parents.
Then the domestic disputes begin, recorded live at the time, of her fighting with her mother and then sobbing in to the phone camera as heavily applied makeup streams down her face. Too many times. This was a horrifying pattern that Katelyn lived regularly. She tells her audience that she gets called a whore, that she hates everything, that her dad “lives two miles” from her but refuses to acknowledge her, that her step-father assaulted her and that she is very, very tired.
“When you see someone who is emo, run up to them, force their sleeves up and kiss their arms. It will make all the difference. Trust me,” she advises in one video.
I even found myself researching the emo subculture, bourne of emotive rock and made popular in the early 2000’s. It is a look and sound that blends punk music culture with goth culture and rock music. So it’s an interesting style that is intended to say “I’m counting myself out before you count me” yet is carefully styled, depending on your ratio of time to money (because my god, dying/feathering your hair, flipping it upside down and wearing it off to the side isn’t easy) a contradiction in itself that seems to say: I don’t care, but I care so very much.
She walks outside during one video, walks past the tree and says, “This is where I ha-“ and the video cuts out temporarily. Where she hangs? Where she hangs. Where she hangs herself later.
An online blog, self-declared as ‘Broken Doll’ where she went by the name Dolly will tell you, she hated Christmas. It was never an enjoyable time for her.
She briefly broadcasts herself syncing along to Ruth B singing “Lost Boy”.
There was a time when I was alone
No where to go and no place to call home
My only friend was the man in the moon
And even sometimes he would go away, too
Then one night, as I closed my eyes
I saw a shadow flying high
He came to me with the sweetest smile
Told me he wanted to talk for a while
He said, “Peter Pan, that’s what they call me
I promise that you’ll never be lonely”
There is something unsettling, that perhaps I cannot relate to, about this digital age. Why do you feel so strongly, show off so much, only to succumb to the ails you’re exploiting with every soapbox announcement? How do the people that follow you, the There that is on the other side, the Force you join when you go Live, how is it guiding you? How does the attention, good and bad, factor? Were you not on a journey to be able to get through every day?
Maybe you aren’t looking in to IT, in to You, when you do it.
Are YOU reading this? Do you need to reach out and tell someone that you’re feeling out of control?
Are you at the end as far as you can see?
Whatever you do,
This story, this true story, all of it because of a heart-breaking video that made headlines, yet, that no one wanted anyone to see. I forgot, somewhere down the rabbit hole, what my original questions were, what I was searching for as I tried to uncover this story about a girl that the world misses very much.
I did it. I found her. I see her, I’ve got her. I know now.
But she’s gone. I can’t make her go forward. She only goes backwards and disappears.