‘She never knew how beautiful she was’

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The memorial that has sprouted on the White Bear Avenue bridge over I-94 in St. Paul would have surprised Arianna Tatum, her friends said this evening.

On Wednesday afternoon, Tatum, 20, walked halfway across the bridge, took off her shoes, climbed a fence and jumped to the highway below, to be hit by a car, then another, and then another.

“She never knew how beautiful she was,” Cassandra Combs said. “She cared about others more than she cared about herself.”

“We were friends, but we were more like sisters,” she said as she signed a balloon with “Rest In Peace, Sis!” They knew each other for about 9 years. “We met in a juvenile center,” Ms. Combs said.

She sent her a message on MySpace two days ago, but Arianna didn’t respond.

None of the reticent young people, who stood on the bridge looking at the traffic below, knew or would say what finally led the young woman to kill herself.

“She was depressed, but she never sought help for it,” one told me.

“She was down on herself,” said another. “She didn’t realize how many people cared.”

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This evening, Arianna Tatum’s family and friends are lighting candles in her memory on the bridge.

At least one news organization in the Twin Cities won’t run the story about the woman who jumped off a bridge in St. Paul. They think it’ll lead to copycat suicides. Perhaps, but maybe it’ll lead to someone asking for help.

(Update: A memorial fund has been set up. See the comments below.)

  • I don’t know her but I do

    At least one news organization in the Twin Cities won’t run the story about the woman who jumped off a bridge in St. Paul. They think it’ll lead to copycat suicides. Perhaps, but maybe it’ll lead to someone asking for help.//

    I drove underneath this bridge this evening and didn’t know what it was all about. I thought someone was coming home. In a way they are.

    This kind of stuff will end when the competition ends.

    I am so sick of it. I am glad that you wrote about this Bob.

  • Minn Whaler

    these stories need to be told, over and over and over… until the stigma of brain illnesses disappear and people know how to recognize the signs, intervene and get the person suffering MEDICAL attention.

    This is not about not being a whiner, or about “put your big girl pants on and deal with it”. These illnesses are just as real as cancer and diabetes and more lethal then either of those when it comes to teens and young adults. Education is the key… and keeping the topic public each and every time is part of that education…

    Thank you Bob!

  • RJ

    Thank you for running this story. I drove under this bridge and saw this beautiful girl lying beneath it. This is a day I will never forget and I have been searching for any information on what had happened to her. My thoughts and prayers are with her family today. I hope you are at peace now sweet girl.

  • Thank you for sharing this, Bob.

    Given my own past history, I can’t express how much I appreciate it.

  • Natalie

    I am disapointed that news caster would not cover this story. I feel that if people know there is help out there they are more likrly to seek it out rather than take their precious lives because they feel hopeless. This young lady was my cousins friend. I cant even believe that they wouls actually say people would copy cat but yet the news covers killings, roberies, etc and you see those allover the news. What has the worl come to that we can’t send a message to young people about how precious life is and if they ever feel like they can’t handle it their is support out there for them. News casters need an “Educational Moment” as I would call it if they think people will copy cat such a thing they should be ashamed of themselves.

    R.I.P. Arianna you will be trully missed and you were very much loved!!!!!

  • Sarah

    I can’t imagine what Arianna felt like as she walked on the bridge on a hot August afternoon. As she removed her shoes… as she climbed the fence and lept to her death…what were her thoughts? Did she whisper her goodbyes to her child and loved ones? Did she cry out for help? Did she slip? Did she hold her breath and jump? We will never know the answers to these questions. We are not always given what we need to help in our healing of such tragedies. All we can do is trust in God and believe that Arianna is safe now, and that her wounds from life are healed and that she is waiting on the otherside. Arianna, may you rest in the comfort of the Lord always.

  • Kassie

    As Natalie points out, what makes a suicide be something we are afriad people will copy cat but not a gang shooting that goes unsolved or a bank robbery?

    With reporting like what Bob has done here, the emphasis is on how much the person will be missed and the terrible tragedy. I hope it shows people thinking the same thoughts that people really do love you and will miss you and that you just need to reach out and someone will help.

    The only criticism I have is that Bob doesn’t list an organization where someone reading this who is also suicidal can get help. Like the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255

    (Bob notes: thanks Kassie. It was my intention to do so, though I was going to add a link to people who need help for general mental health issues. The problem I’ve had in the last few hours is finding that location. I know they exist, but many of them are now unable to provide any immediate help anymore. Thanks for posting this resource.)

  • c

    I wonder if she was being bullied.

    I think that there may be more social external factors or pressures involved this suicide.

    This kinds of actions of hopelessness will stop -like the first poster says-when our society takes a good look in t eh mirror and asks what their part was or wasn’t in all of it.

    Thanks for posint the story Bob.

  • Mac Wilson

    We live about a mile & a half away, and have driven under the bridge multiple times in the last few days. When I heard about it on Wednesday, my initial thoughts were: 1.) What a terrible, sad story, & 2.) We’ll never hear anything else about it, because no one will follow up on it, due to policies about covering suicides. I think banishing it from most news coverage has an opposite effect — there’s a luridness that takes over, almost a shame for having to dig deeper to research what happened. I’m heartened that MPR is giving coverage to the human face behind the incident, as opposed to other organizations, who are basically saying, “Remember when I-94 closed down at White Bear for two hours Wednesday afternoon? Forget about it, nothing to see here, move along.”

  • Neal

    This is a very good story that we all need to hear. Too often we are blind to the reality that so many are suffering alone.

    However, I agree with the newscaster that didn’t cover the story. In fact, I don’t think any of the network news cast should have cover it. My reason is simply they don’t dedicate the time and resources needed to tell the story right. A 5-30 second snippet between political news and the weather doesn’t do this story or the people involved justice. Additionally, since the only time we hear stories about suicide by non-famous people is when they do it in a spectacular fashion; it does create incentives for those who are wishing to draw attention to them selves to repeat the attempt. When was the last time any news media covered a non-famous person committing suicide via and OD?

    While I have great sympathy for this lady and those she left behind. We should remember that the means in which she took her life presented a great danger to the people on the highway. We are lucky that she didn’t cause and accident that could have killed unsuspecting drivers or their passengers.

    These are important stories but then need to be told right. I think this article did a pretty good job, The news at 6 and 10 would not have.

    (Collins notes: Point of order. It’s actually a newspaper that has a “no suicides” policy, although for the record, I’m pretty sure MPR didn’t cover the story, either)

  • carol

    This is the 2nd Young Person in 3 mos to take their own life that were friends of 2 of my grand kids**The message that needs to go out is not the Details of Arrian’s Death but the sadness that she FELT she had no one to talk to**we ALL must find Ways to get Young People to Understand it’s ok to ask for HELP when you are Confused*Angry*OverWhelmed*Unhappy*Etc and we must beWilling to help friends get help when we see or sense they are in Turmiol*not look the other way or say it’s NOT my Business.

    IT’S BETTER TO BE WRONG & TRY THEN TO BE RIGHT & DO NOTHING **& then wonder why they went to the Extreme

    H-Hope*E-Energy*L-Love*P-Peace

  • Jeanne

    This is a heartbreaking story, but one all to common. My 18-year-old daughter had a friend from high school commit suicide recently. Teens have a lot to grapple with these days, much more than I do when I was a teen. Many are expected to juggle school and a job. Some are expected to contribute toward the household income or have ongoing child care responsibilities for their siblings. In short, they are expected to be ‘adults’ earlier.

    With the economy as it is, there is more stress on parents and, try as you may to shield your kids from it, they know it and feel it, too. When one’s coping skills are stretched to the max, something’s gotta give and many times that one’s mental health. Whether it’s an actual physiological condition or current circumstances, people need professional assistance. And there is NO shame in asking for and seeking help.

    I’d like to know what the argument is from the news source who does not want to cover stories about suicides. Copy cats? Do they cover stories about murders, robberies, etc.? And they’re not worried about people copying that behavior? The copy answer sounds more like an excuse. Personally, I think the responsible thing a news organization should do in covering this type of story is to also offer information of resources where an individual can get help.

    Back when I worked as a freelance reporter, with ever story I covered, I offered at least one resource in the closing of my story. It’s one thing to tell people the story and another to leave them with some way to empower themselves.

  • Linda Allen

    Thank you for sharing this story Bob, may it help someone and many more.

    Arianna is my brother’s child. One of my brother’s which I haven’t seen in thirteen years. Upon hearing of Arianna’s death and how she departed this earth leaves a void in my heart and spirit. I personally never knew Arianna, but it makes her no less loved by me. She was and remains family. . . . Arianna left this world on the thirteenth anniversary of her grandfather’s, our father’s passing. Arianna I’m so sorry that your time on this earth had become so tormenting. I hope that you do rest in peace. I ask those who especaily mourn Arianna’s departure, to reach out and assure others who may be in the position Arianna was, help is accessible. We must somehow assist them by whatever means necessary. No one can nor should they feel they must do it alone. No one should have to think they are alone. Please tell these tender-hearted and lost souls they are loved and placing us all in situations such as Arianna’s leaves an emptiness and helpless not knowing what could have been done and why.

    Love Your Aunt Linda

  • Bob Collins

    thank YOU for sharing that with us, Linda.

  • Ely

    “She was depressed, but she never sought help for it,” one told me.

    If you knew that, why didn’t you help.

    “She was down on herself,” said another. “She didn’t realize how many people cared.”

    If you knew that or felt that, maybe someone should have told her.

    Maybe if so much caring and loving wasn’t only in hindsight, after the fact, things would be different.

    There’s an elephant in the room no one seems to want to address.

  • keya

    This story should be told so other young kids can no you don’t have to leave the word like that, that’s not the right way ….seeing this beautiful young girl doing that just hurts and my heart goes out to her family to lose somone you love so much just hurts I didn’t know her but I knew of her and she seemed sweet and that’s not a good way to go but to her family I will keep y’all in my prayers, things will get better for you guys

  • michelle

    i can’t believe this hasn’t been covered more widely in the news. thank God for NPR.

  • Liz

    I also saw this girl laying in peace on the freeway minutes after… i was so upset to see someone so young ending up like that… i wish someone could have gotten to her before she got over the fence… my prayers are with her. and good point on the shooting and gangs, why are those announced and shown all over the news but there is only two sentences in pioneer press about this poor girl who needed help. Their should have been a news report about it with a help line and a whole report on what people should do if someone is feeling so depressed that they are getting to that point… but they just ignored it. Its so sad. She was a beautiful girl and my prayers are with her family.

  • A Memorial Benefit Account has been opened. If

    you wish to donate please visit Any TCF Branch location. The benefit

    account is in Arianna’s name. Thank you for your support.

  • Rebekah

    I was on ruth bridge when it happen i didnt see her jump but i seen the after affects at the time i didnt know who it was but then when i seen the photos when i was crossing the whitebear ave bridge i seen that it was a deer young beautiful friend of mine that i went to school with and that was Arianna and then i thought to myself if i would have stopped home first before going to pick up my friend from work like i planned because i live on whitebear i would have seen her n picked her up or made her get in my truck and talk her out of it !! It makes me sad just to think about it i wish i coulda have helped her or saved her from that Its carzy because she wasso young n funny smart talented n very out going she was unique and had a big heart and for thoses trying to figuer out what she was thinking or why or how or whatever questions that you have the answer there isnt one we will never know we can just imagen and learn a lesson sometimes it isnt a medical problem somtimes it a feeling that just takes over youll never know till you have it if you feel that way please seek help tell and talk to someone dont be afraid or give up on yourself I agree people need to rememeber this and not imitate but observe and reach out to somone any one because you are someone .. feelings like that are serious and there nothing to joke or make fun and if your out there doing that you should be ashamed of yourself exspecialy when there someones life n family as well as friends involed ! Please people out there dont feel that way if there is a will there is a way and there is always someone who loves you an will support you he is with you 24/7 365 God loves all his children and will never turn you away from you so when you feel like that keep that in mind everything will work out !! And my prayers will continue to go out to the friends and family of Ms Arianna Tatum wish you where still here and you where loved then and will always be also are very much missed and my God start healing hearts!! Love you hun! my heart goes out to you Mrs Tatum i know what i is like to loose someone i lost both parents this last past year but with faith n faith alone you will get threw this please be strong god is with you an your family all they wayy!!!!!!!!!!! Love ms Bekah Sabin

  • connie

    In regards to the Memorial Benefit Account who the money go towards helping her daughter? what would the money be used for?

  • Kayla

    R.I.P Arianna We miss and love you babygirl. we will meet again at the crossroads. You will always be in my heart, may your soul rest in peace.

  • calvin bruce

    R.I.P. to my little cousin Arianna Tatom.

  • I made a page for her on Facebook. It has reached over 700 members in the 1st day PLEASE support it if you have a Facebook account. (Thanks)

  • lauri rustand

    thank you so very much for running this story. it is a very sad sittuation for all. my daughter and arianna were very close and yes we seen sadness in ariannas eyes, but we also seen joy, kindness, tolerance, and yes beauty. she was a lovley young woman. many people tried to talk to arianna, but her pain ran deep, deeper than many of us could deal with.

    as a society we belive our babies are adults at 18 years of age, so not true. we turn them out on the world with out the skills they need to cope with in this crazy mixed up world.

    yes there are a lot of should haves or could haves,thats not how it should be, pay attention now to your loved ones and their friends they need you.

  • Jeanne

    I think sometimes people worry that you need money or insurance to get professional help. You don’t. I know that the Hamm Clinic, located in downtown St. Paul, takes patients who have no insurance. I know because that was my situation.

    You pay based on a sliding fee scale based on household size and income. So even if you don’t have income, you can get help. There are other resources out there like this; this is one that I know of personally. Here’s a link to their website: http://www.hammclinic.org/services.html

    And, if you are in a crisis and feel you can’t make that phone call yourself, you need to tell someone you trust and ask them to help get you connected to professional help. No one need suffer in silence; there are people who care and there is help for you.

  • c

    You are right Lauri Rustand. I am sorry for your loss.

    I does sound like this young girl was deeply loved.

    We teach our children competition which only adds to energy of the Mayhem controlling the city and our immediate society.

    The change starts with us.

  • Ksenia Burgoyne

    Im so glad that Bob wrote this story. Iam suffering from mental illnes and I have tried to commit suicide myself before many times… Im actually in the hospital wright now. This story is so sad when i heard about it i was very sad . Arianna she is so beautiful. Storys like that needs to be told cause you never who is watching!!! This story will help a lot of young people !!! Rest in Peace beautiful Arianna and may God be with her family and her daughter!!!

  • Amy

    I can’t even put in to word’s how devastating this was to hear. I was scrolling down reading my FB status’s yesterday and came across her story. I was in shock to hear that a young woman took her life and that this was the first time hearing about it. I watch the new’s daily and never heard anything.i just recently lost an ex-bf to suicide due to depression. It’s a real problem that many don’t address. Awarness and education need’s to be informed for everyone that suffer’s. I have to remind myself when thing’s seem gloomy and their’s no hope, their is alway’s light at the end of the tunnel.My heart goes out to all who loved her….especially her daughter.R.I.P. ARIANNA♥

  • Clyde Casstevens

    I didn’t knqw or ever heart arianna,but i am very heartbroken that this happen,to began with.everyone should understand & knqw when this happen to you it maybe over here for you,but it will never be over for those that truely love you,never,please go to someone for help out there.please don’t do this.please don’t.its not a joke,its real,if some one came to me& wanted to talk,i would listen as i might be able to make a diffiences.that something never know,if thatspossible or not since i have no expinence.you mush knqw dieing without Gods calling is very serious.& anyone that wouldn’t take this serious &takes this as a joke,needs help them sevles real bad.i am so sorry this happen,so sorry clyde 8-15-2010

  • R. R

    My prayers go out to the family. We must put GOD in our lives and our children lives. My heart is so heavy right now, because i was once in that place with thoughts of doing harm to myself but with the grace of GOD i’m here today.

  • Beth Jacobs

    Arianna was a sweet young beautiful girl. She came into my life and left footprints on my heart. She will never be forgotten. Ive read all these comments many are kind, others dont seem to understand. I loved her and talked to her many many times, Ive even picked her up near the same place when she was feeling distressed and so depressed she didn’t want to go on. She was a young woman who went through too many bad things that left wounds and scars that couldnt heal. She tried to heal, sometimes life overwhelms us the pain gets to be too much little things become huge. I love you Arianna and will see you in heaven…………….

  • Chrissy

    Even though I didn’t know you your story has been on my mind heavy and made me look at life totally different…r.I.p you are in a better place now…my prayers go out to family and friends.

  • love

    RIP

    I barely watch the news anymore but I do drive on white bear ave. almost everyday and cross that bridge almost everyday. Last week I saw all these beautiful balloons, flowers, bears, etc. tied to the bridge and thought to myself, “what happened?” I talked to my husband about it and he said that they had closed the highway for some reason which he did not know. Now, I know….

    Its so heartbreaking to hear situations such as these. There are times when I feel so lonely and depressed. As a young mother of 2 I find myself as stated above a “loss soul.” But after reading so many comments and realizing post after post that life is so much more than closed doors and empty souls. I know these types of news strikes those who are also feeling this way. I hope those of you who are reading this and feel depressed know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I AM NOT ALONE! But we must make effort to reach out and tell someone. Please please knw that you really aren’t alone on this. I am too. We all are. We choose how to live our life. We have choices. Now YOU must choose to live your life and NOT the lonely life that will only drive you nuts.

    Take care everyone. For we must be aware of the things we say, of the things we do, and of the people we care for the most!!!

    I shall remind myself as I will bookmark this page. Keep posting comments ebcause they truly enlighten the way for people like me…

  • Mel

    It’s sad that this woman was so down that she felt like there was no other way, but pretty selfish that she put her family and friends through such a traumatic time. To add to that what about the endangerment she put those people in the vehicles that she jumped in front of. That could have caused even more fatalities then just her own…Despite all that may she RIP and her family live with ease.

  • R. Lewis

    Just read the story above and with my family this really impacted me because I’m a teenager going through High School A place there is always drama and where you occasionally see people that are in despair although I’ve never thought about doing this It enlightened me on how others sometimes suffer and the world just goes on like nothing happened it makes me upset that the news couldn’t cover this story I think that it is a very horrific thing that happened and my heart goes out to the family and friends of Arianna Tatum this story made me want to change myself and my life and to help those when they’re in trouble or sad/depressed although it might not always be deadly I think this teaches all of us as human beings borne from a gods image from the roots of Adam and Eve and as brothers and sisters to help our fellow man and woman and to always care about people Rest in Peace Arianna Tatum although I never knew you I feel heartbroken about what happened It’s great that you finally got your wings in heaven and are in a better place where your heart and soul has been mended Rest In Peace

  • Shantae Zerahn

    I love you so much ari baby ! ~tizzle

  • CHRISTINA A.K.A PRADA

    R.I.P BABY GIRL.

    I dont know when was the last time i saw you but i know its been a minute. Im sorry that i wasn’t their to help you and im sorry for all the pain you went threw.

    I dont know if you knew it or not but you helped me alot when i was struggling and searching for love and for that i will always love you and your family.

    To ARIANNA FAMILY

    I know its not every going to be the same but be strong and know that as time goes on it will get better.

  • The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Out of Darkness walk for Suicide Victims is TOMORROW, Sunday September 19th at 10am. Heres the link to join the team and register otherwise same-day registration begins at 830am at Como Park’s Black Bear Crossing

    http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.team&eventID=1050&teamID=17986

  • keikei

    WOW!!! this story just takes my breath away DEPRESSION is real and shouldnt be ignored. If you know someone who seems to be suffering from depression or just seems different talk to them about it, and if all else fails FORCE them to get help.This beautiful womens life could have been saved had the proper interventions occurred!

  • Alyece Johnson

    R.I.P Arianna♥

    i love you so much cousin !

  • Annel

    May she rest in peace♥

  • Lita

    R.I.PARADISE ARI GIRL… WE ALL MISS U AND R THINKING OF YOU AS EACH DAY PASSES. I RECENTLY LOST MY BEST FRIEND TO SUICIDE ITS A REALLY HARD THING TO GO THROUGH ESPECIALLY SINCE YOUR SO CLOSE TO THEM, BUT JUST REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE NEVER ALONE AND THAT THERE’S HELP. “LIVING IN CHRIST WILL GIVE YOU THE STRENGTH” FAITH CAN DO ALOT OF THINGS. EVEN THOUGH IT MAY NOT HAPPEN RIGHT AWAY IT JUST TAKES TIME AND REMEMBER EVEN IF YOU DONT THINK THIS ITS TRUE, PEOPLE LUV YOU MORE THAN YOU THINK

  • andrea

    Im at a lost for words she was a very beautiful amazing girl. And as a 26 yr old women i myself is suffering from depression right now as i type. Im having thoughts of killing myself just like she did and i fear if i dont get some better help or even support im going to end up just like her. I have two beautiful kids to take care of i cant sleep i dont really have no one to talk to im not eating im losing weight and yet im in a house full of ppl that see me everyday and still cant tell something is wrong with me. I have spent five days in a mental hospital already in 2009 i thought it helped but i see now it didnt help that much. Its like im raging out at the world and i cant control myslef thoughts off killing not just myself but other ppl as well but even reading this and all the comments i got a little support and motivation from all of you so i indeed will be making that call i have kids to think about and i damn sure dont wanna hurt them so i came on here for a reason. I rather get help then to hurt my kids or even leave my kids they need me more then anyone. Depression is nothin to play with at all it takes over your heart mind body and soul you feel your hopeless alone and have no one to care about you and what your goin through. I feel that way right now because i know i dont have anyone close to me to help but im taking actions myself. i pray to god that if theres anyone else goin through they will atleast read this story and all the comments and go get help just like im bout to do. Rest In Paradise baby girl your friends and family needed you but god needed you more you are indeed a true beautiful angel. Fly free sweetie free of pain and sorrow…

  • Gabriella Sanderson

    WOW! I didn’t know her or knew of her. I just happen to be on Facebook & saw her name so typed it on aol.com & this HORRIBLE story came up. My mouth dropped hearing this beautiful person took her life. I’m a teenage girl in high school & there is A LOT that goes on that is hard for most teenagers, EVEN ME! I’m always feeling like i’m under so much stress! I’m under a lot right now, even thoughts of commiting suicide. But after reading this story I see that there is help & even if you feel like no one loves you, there is always someone. Arianna whatever you was going through I hope your in peace now babygirl & my prayers go out to your family! RIP

  • – Rip myy cousiin ii will alway’s miss &’nd love yooh.! ! !

  • SOPHIA

    MEDICAL HELP…NO WHAT WE NEED IS LOVE AND SUPPORT FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS YOU THINK WE WANT TO CONFIED TO A SYKE WARD WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE WE NEED TO BE HEARD WE NEED SOMEONE WE CAN TRUELY TRUST IN NOT NO DAMN SHRINK OR DOCTOR WE NEED ARE FAMILY! SOMEONE TO TELL US ITS GONNA BE OKAY ONE TO HOLD US AND ENCOURAGE TO CRY OUT ONE THAT WILL HELP US GET PEACE OF MIND…..WE NEED SOMEONE LIKE US!

  • Dreja

    – Man Frist you then my dad in one year ‘ smh I love and will alway’s miss you guys I guee they say everythinq happen’s for a reason bud my question is why , why the ones I love why the ones everybody love’s I just wish there was a world were ‘ no one world pass a way only happyness nd freedom . Bud I guess thats only in fairy tales you are my cousin &’nd I wish you was still here . Im stayinq strong for you nd my dad ‘ I knoee you guys wontd want me to be sad well idk not really sure Bud I knoee you thouqht it was best for you Nd I would only wanna see you happy :/ Ugh well just want to stop here to say hey ari nd I