Here is the full transcript of Penn State Behrend freshman Joseph Keogh’s TEDx Talk presentation: I Witnessed A Suicide at TEDxPSUBehrend conference. In this TED talk, Joseph tells the story of how he witnessed a shotgun suicide of one of his classmates. This TEDx event took place on April 8, 2017 at Erie, Pennsylvania.
Listen to the MP3 Audio: I witnessed a suicide by Joseph Keogh at TEDxPSUBehrend
Joseph Keogh – Student at Penn State Behrend
So it’s June 15th 2016, a warm summer day. I had just graduated high school and I’m riding the euphoria of all that comes along with going away to college.
Now, most stories start off with today was not a normal day but not mine. Today was anything from normal, from sunup to sundown. I cancel plans with my friends. I decide to not go to my favorite museum with my family. And I wash my car by hand. All of these actions are really out of the norm for me.
For whatever reason, I was home all day. And just after drawing off my car, I was in my room, not really doing much. And my little sister Allison comes in. She asks, “Can we go pick up Maddie from Jason’s house?” I say yes without really giving a second thought, and within a couple minutes we’re driving.
A little backstory on Maddie and Jason. Jason is a junior, goes to my high school, and he’s dating Maddie, a freshman who’s friends with my sister.
Now my sister likes to throw parties like any other teenager does. So I’ve gotten to know Jason a little bit. And what I’ve learned from watching him is that he is the center of his social group. He is the one that everyone looks to, to see what they should be doing, and if they like it or not. Now I’ve also noticed that he can get angry sometimes and has a hot temper.
When my sister first asked if we could go pick up Maddie, I said yes pretty quickly. And this was for a couple of reasons.
The first was that it’s kind of weird for me to pick up a friend from a boyfriend’s house. Usually I just chauffer for my sister from house to house.
The second was that I had heard in school about Maddie and Jason having some relationship problems, and that kind of set an alarm bell off.
The third was that my sister wears her arm on her sleeve, so it’s really easy to tell that she was anxious about the situation also.
So we arrived at Jason’s house and I parked my black sedan on the right side of the street, opposite from his house. I opened the car door and I stepped out into the warm cloudy afternoon Virginia air. And I noticed that Maddie’s sitting on the porch, which is out of place. Normally my sister’s friends just wait inside for a text or knock at the door.
But Maddie walks across the yard. I open the car door behind mine and she gets in. I shut up behind her.
Now at this point I have to admit that I’m really relieved that Jason is nowhere to be seen and that there had been no incident or altercation.
So I head back in the car, buckle my seatbelt, close the door and start a three-point turn to head home. The first turn was the left in Jason’s driveway. I put the car in reverse to back out and I look up at the house and noticed a figure in the doorway that wasn’t there before. I recognized him instantly from his red, white and blue American flag tank top. It’s Jason, and he’s holding a broom in his hand, it looks like, but as I take a closer look, my heart begins to thump inside my chest as they recognized the metal in wood as a shotgun.
I begin to think about what’s about to happen. My first thought is that Jason is just trying to show that he’s more manly than I am. I can’t hurt him. And the second but more scary is that he’s going to come out and show his anger through the firearm. And that’s what I act on.
I put the car in reverse and I back out of the driveway. I stop and I’m about to head home and I put the gearshifter and drive, and then park. Chunk… chunk… chunk… drive for getting away safely and park for getting out and trying to talk some sense into Jason.
I choose drive, slowly lift my foot off the brake and feel the car start to push into my back. I take one last look at the house to make sure everything’s still okay and I don’t see Jason anymore. But I see red, white and blue at about waist level and notice that Jason’s bent over like this. As I scan my eyes down, pop. I see what looks like a pink mist covering the door that Jason was standing behind. I’m trying to wrap my brain about what just happened and I forced myself to come to the conclusion that what I was seeing was Jason’s brain matter splattered on the door and the skylight above.
I hear a faint Joey something just happened from the backseat and I realized that I know something the girls don’t: Jason just shot himself.
My first thought is to get the girls away. I put the car in drive and begin to speed away across one intersection and maybe even two. I hear rustling from the backseat and next to me the girls are starting to panic. There’s rustling in seats, slamming on windows, so I locked the car to keep them in.
I grab the phone and dial nine-one-one. The operator picks up and I have to utter the words: “I’ve just witnessed a suicide” and chaos immediately erupts inside the sedan.
As I’m trying to relay the information to the operator, like the address, my name, and for some reason my birthday. I get a faint look from my sister with tears in her eyes and asks if Jason is going to be okay. In order to keep myself together I have to look away.