Anatomy of a Teen Tragedy Three friends met at the railroad tracks. Two ended their lives. What were the girls thinking? Their own words offer a hint.
May 16, 2010|By Mari A. Schaefer, Maria Panaritis, and Joelle Farrell INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS
Editor's note: In the weeks after two teenage girls from Delaware County committed suicide in February by stepping in front of an Amtrak train, The Inquirer interviewed dozens of friends, relatives, police, public officials, and school personnel in an effort to reconstruct how this tragedy took place and to help understand the causes and recognize the warning signs of teenage suicide.
Vanessa Dorwart was out the door in a flash.
The Interboro High School sophomore seldom went anywhere without first considering, 'How do I look?' But on this late February morning, the 15-year-old got out of bed, pulled her hair into a ponytail, threw on some clothes, and zipped out.
No primping. No purse. No Burberry perfume.
It was just Vanessa, her BlackBerry, and a 1 1/2-mile walk to the Norwood train station.
'I'm going out real quick,' she told her older sister, Frankie, 17, also home sick from school. The sky was blank and the air thick with the kind of chill you get before a winter storm. Weary souls were bracing for more snow in a paralyzing winter.
'I'm meeting up with Kelly and Gina, and I'll be back.'
Vanessa, Kelly Cashwell, and Gina Gentile were a teenage triumvirate, inseparable. They liked sleepovers, dances, and Facebook, this tight trio from a cluster of towns just beyond the runways of Philadelphia International Airport.
Vanessa, 9:28 a.m.: 'Kell - where the hell are u going'
Kelly, 9:28 a.m.: 'heaven'
These clues, if they may be called that, came from Vanessa's cell phone. The phone she tapped on as she approached a picture-postcard park between her Glenolden home and the Norwood station, 20 minutes away.
It is impossible to know Vanessa's thoughts the morning of Feb. 25 as she set out to join the other two who had cut class. The mind of a teenager is a thing of mystery, a tempest of coming-of-age.
Even more mysterious is what could have driven the three friends to meet on the tracks. That question would leave their community thirsty for answers, loved ones writhing in regret, and people at a distance, people totally unconnected, stunned at such tragic resolve.
Kelly, 9:29 a.m.: 'Never forget I love You'
Vanessa, 9:29 a.m.: 'I'm going with you, where are u'
Kelly, 9:31 a.m.: 'Your too late trains coming now'
Vanessa walked through blue-collar Delaware County boroughs built by 19th-century railroad dreamers as country escapes for the well-to-do, who have long since left. The bedraggled boroughs sit along the Delaware River's once-muscular industrial spine.https://articles.philly.com/2010-05-16/news/25216667_1_amtrak-train-amtrak-line-cell-phone