I didn’t believe it — I didn’t understand it,” Brandon Bossard, a sophomore who had a second-period class with Ms. Pais, said after dismissal on Wednesday. “She’s so quiet. How could someone so quiet be like that?”She poured out her dark feelings in an online journal that she signed with her own name. The journal
He said Ms. Pais would sit alone, in a chair against the classroom wall. Other students also described Ms. Pais as keeping mostly to herself, wearing baggy T-shirts, jeans and boots and, often, earphones as she listened to music.
“She was really smart,” said Jade Leeyee, a 17-year-old senior who sat in front of Ms. Pais in English class. “She was a genuine person, and she had such a pretty smile.”
read like a catalog of isolation, depression and anguish, illustrated with pictures of knives and guns. In a July 2018 entry, the journal writer described waking up every day feeling “lost, hopeless, angry, pissed off.” . . . She describes months of feeling lost, hopeless and misunderstood. “I wish I could get a gun by the end of the summer,” she apparently wrote in July. . . . The journal included drawings of firearms and a bloody knife, and a mention of dreaming about a shotgun.She described herself as “infatuated” with Columbine and one of her entries included a drawing of Dylan Klebold.
Later entries vaguely describe some sort of plan, the “task at hand,” which involved flying to Colorado and buying a shotgun.
On Monday she disappeared from Miami Beach and took that Colorado flight, which one school official called a “pilgrimage.” Once there, she bought the shotgun as she had planned. This threw authorities into a panic and a massive search was launched for her.
Yesterday she killed herself with a gun in the snowy woods above Echo Lake.
I try not to pay too much attention to these events because I think the people who act them out are seeking attention as much as anything else. But this story struck me as perfectly expressing important truths about America.
Where does the real danger to us lie? Not in Moscow or Pyongyang, but in the back of the classroom, sitting quietly.
Whom do we fear? The loner, lost in fantasies of death and revenge, whose strongest connections to the world are through images of violence. He is out there, somewhere, buying guns, dreaming of armageddon.
We fear those whose strongest feeling for another human is an obsessive fascination with a famous killer. The scariest plots on cop shows involve serial killers who are in prison but can still inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
We can guard against those who hope to kill and get away with it, but we don't know how to defend ourselves from those for whom their own deaths are as much a part of their plans as those of their victims.
When Sol Pais embarked on her pilgrimage, thousands trembled. Tough Miami cops who thought they had seen it all leaped frantically to the phones to call the FBI, and the FBI mobilized as if against an invasion. Parents across Colorado kept their children home. She was, for a moment, powerful; for a moment, people paid attention to her inner pain, not just her grades and her smile.
We don't even know what she was really planning. Maybe it was just a suicide, preferably in front the the school that obsessed her, but if not then somewhere else. Maybe she planned to scare people in the school before she went. But the fear that she wanted to kill before she died terrorized us.
Our worst problems are problems of our minds. We suffer from anxiety, depression, loneliness, rage, despair. Someone like Sol Pais scares us so much because she is so familiar; she suffered from a more extreme version of what inflicts us all, and the path she seemed to be walking was one we have watched in horror too many times before.
We know what we need: connection. We need friendship, love, fellowship, a sense of belonging, a feeling that we are not alone, a belief that we are part of the world, not its hated outcasts. It is so hard for us to find those things ourselves that we have no idea how to give them to those who suffer cruelly without them. We are so frightened of what these demons might drive us to that the suicide of a lonely girl on a snowy mountainside feels like a blessed relief.