Thousands Turn to Twitter in Support of Fallen Sandburg Student

Late Sunday night, friends and family posted the hashtag #RN20 in honor of Ryan Nash. Within a few hours, thousands did the same to raise awareness and prevent others from suffering silently.

Updated, 2:15 p.m. Monday, May 07

Updated, 10:15 a.m. Monday, May 07

Close friends and family began sharing their grief on Twitter about suddenly losing a loved one Sunday night. Within a few hours, thousands of people joined them online, sharing thoughts and prayers after the death of 15-year-old Ryan Nash.

The freshman and baseball player was declared dead by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office Sunday night. The medical examiner concluded Monday afternoon that Nash died of a gunshot wound and his death was ruled a suicide.

Nash’s death sparked a massive reaction on Twitter, with prayers and support for him. Some thought early on that bullying may have been a contributing factor, but on Monday sources said that was not the case in Nash's death.

School counselors and social workers were on hand Monday to help students get through what several described as a hard day. Sandburg Principal Debbie Boniface said there was an outpouring of support from students and staff alike on Monday. 

"A lot of care among the Sandburg community, for the community, was seen today," Boniface said. 

In a statement, Consolidated High School District 230 expressed condolences to Nash's family.

"Today is a very sad day for the Sandburg High School community as we grieve the loss of a freshman student," the statement read. "The school community has rallied to support each other in a very difficult time. We extend our condolences to his family and friends. Our hearts go out to them as they cope with their loss."

As an effort to spread the hashtag #RN20 grew Sunday and Monday, it also served as a way to grieve, share memories and unite people who knew Nash, as well as former Sandburg students touched by his death. The common thread among thousands of tweets was to encourage people to confide their pain with friends and loved ones before making irreversible actions.

niki nash ‏ @xonicollerene

My brother can see how loved he was #RN20 thank you all so much for all of your support today

The hashtag spreading was also carried out by hundreds of people who didn’t know Nash, and didn’t have any ties to the school. 

Atlanta Maide ‏ @atlantamaide

I never even knew you, but you have changed me. Ryan you will not be forgotten #RN20

Requests to Justin Bieber, Oprah Winfrey, Katy Perry, Northwestern Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald, Kim Kardashian, LeBron James, rapper Wiz Khalifa, Taj Gibson from the Chicago Bulls, ESPN, Sportscenter and many other high profile accounts were made to share the hashtag. The hope expressed by many was to get the hashtag circulating worldwide by Monday morning, and it reached nationally by then.

Record-breaking runner and Sandburg alum Lukas Verzbicas answered the call to spread word about Nash’s passing through Twitter.

Lukas Verzbicas ‏ @LukasVerzbicas

Baseball player Ryan Nash from my former high school took his life today. Keeping you and your family in prayers #RN20 #RIP

On Monday morning, celebrity and Sandburg alum Bill Rancic also helped spread word.

Bill Rancic ‏ @BillRancic

@SawahCate please help us trend #RN20 for a Carl Sandburg student who took his life today. It would mean everything 2us Orland kids #RN20

Here are other thoughts shared by people Sunday night and early Monday morning on Nash’s passing, all of which can be seen on Twitter.

Kate Halterman 

half of us didn't even know Ryan, but look at the amazing things we can do. Sandburg really is a family. #RN20#RestInPeace

Conor Gorman

Still in pain and shock ill miss you friend #RN20 never forgotten we have this eagles!

Kevin Mahoney ‏ @GirlsCanFlyy

@Oprah Can you get this trending #RN20 for a kid who passed away at an age that is way to young and had so much potential#inspirational

Jack McPartlin ‏ @JP_MCP

This can't be a temporary change no more bullying fighting anything lets all RESPECT each other as one WE ALL ARE EQUAL #RN20

Kelsey Pierson ‏ 

It's amazing how everyone can put their differences aside and help remember an amazing boy. #RN20

Nick Vranas ‏ @_nicktorious_

Knowing my best friend he would be doing the same thing if anyone else were in this position #RN20

julian gonzales ‏ @jujubean_40

I'll never say a rude thing to anyone again. you never know what you can do to someone. This ones to anyone I made fun of, I'm sorry#RN20

A Facebook page was also created Sunday in Nash’s memory.

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Please share thoughts on his passing in the comments below.

Ben Feldheim (Editor) May 08, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Justme, I have no problem with your criticism. This just happens to be a point we disagree on. You're welcome to have your view, though I find it interesting that as a journalist you're going by an alias and using a fake email to create an account, while talking about being open to criticism. Usually that's grounds for suspension, but I'll leave your comments to illustrate the point. You should also know that I wasn't first to publish this story. If you saw the initial reports, you'd find your critiques would be better given elsewhere when it comes to accuracy. And I have received a lot of messages today from different people, students, parents of students, people in the community. You don't need to worry about us and our readers.
Mari May 08, 2012 at 01:19 AM
LilGilly It seems that when people are jumping to conclusions that this young man took his life because bullying played a part is upsetting to you. To lose someone for any reason at such a young age is tragic and I am deeply sorry for your pain. When and if you feel the time is appropriate maybe you could share what Ryan's reasons might have been, that would be wonderful. Sometimes other people can relate and hopefully think twice before it's too late!! My sympathies to Ryan's family and friends. Lockport Mom of 4
Ron Kemp May 08, 2012 at 02:12 AM
@Lockport Mom of 4 You're 100% on target. The time has come for the silence to be lifted on these teen suicides. As we're seeing over and over again, silence is deadly. Like you said, understanding Ryan's dilemma could possibly help save someone else. Understandably, right now is much too soon for anyone close to him to talk about it. I've been there; I do get it. At the end of the day, what matters most is that this young man is gone. WHY he's gone doesn't matter at this point, especially to those closest to him.
KLF May 08, 2012 at 02:17 AM
It is a very private matter and people should just leave it alone. The only people tht need to know is his family it is no one else's business. I have never seen so many people make conclusions on something they nothing about . We should just be saying prayers for the family and for Ryan and stop making up stories and rumors.
Kathie May 08, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Ryan was a beautiful little boy who loved playing ball as early as he could hold onto one. He grew up with a wonderful big sister and parents who loved their children more than anything. He had a smile that could light up a room and was a fun loving, and a good friend. He made many good memories with those who love him, hold onto those good times. Don't dwell on how his life ended, remember how he loved baseball, his laugh and how he enjoyed hanging out with friends. May you rest in peace, Ryan.
lilgilly May 08, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Ok I was friends with him and my half brother is his cousin I knew him in school and he wasn't bullied the thing that led him over the top I can't answer but it isn't right for all you people to try to talk about this.....I agree bullying is a problem but In this case it wasn't the key factor don't try startin more rumors and problems for the nash family just pray and give support for them...#RN20<3
KJ May 08, 2012 at 03:44 AM
It really is no one's business what Ryan was going through but those that knew and loved him. The rest of you are simply being nosey. Instead of asking why, pray that his family and friends find a way to deal with the pain and grief! My prayers are with the Nash family ans Ryan's friends! Lilgilly thank you for trying stop the rumors!
Rick May 08, 2012 at 11:30 AM
lilgilly so what was it?
Bob May 08, 2012 at 12:30 PM
I have no idea what the root cause of the problem that caused this tragedy was, but I do hope that the family comes out and makes this a teachable moment. I know it's painful at this difficult time, but while there is attention on this it would be a true public service ot use that attention to bring awareness of the "warning signs" that perhaps could have resulted in action that could have prevented this tragedy. There could perhaps be no greater legacy to Ryan from this tragedy than to save some other family from suffering this painful loss
KT May 08, 2012 at 01:06 PM
It is tragic when anyone, especially someone in their youth, takes their own life. The grief his family, ESPECIALLY his parents are going through, is simply unspeakable. While it is probably true that the circumstances are nobody's business, the questions are a normal response to such a tragedy. Asking "why" is not malicious. It speaks to human empathy. If we all gain a small amount of understanding, perhaps we will learn something, and prevent a tragedy like this in the future. Ultimately, it is very important to respect his family's wishes in all things regarding Ryan's death. Until their wishes are known, everyone should comment and mourn respectfully without judgement of Ryan or each other, no matter how well you knew him. Stop the threads chastising one other and pray for Ryan and his family.
Renee May 08, 2012 at 02:13 PM
You know what's funny,all this effort by u guys to fight and argue about it with eachother. Why dont u turn that around and do something good with it. We will never know what truely happened except for Ryan.
Renee May 08, 2012 at 02:13 PM
U really thing tjats whay he would want from all of u?
Carol May 08, 2012 at 02:18 PM
If we are quiet about why, we can not help the next person.
Carol May 08, 2012 at 02:19 PM
How can the next child be helped if we dont know?
noodle May 08, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Easily. Love your children. Pay attention to them. Be a part of their lives. I'm not saying that Ryan's parents, family and friends weren't. I don't know what happened and I don't care to speculate. I think you're grasping at straws here. You're obviously desperate for an answer. Suppose you found out the reason Ryan chose to end his life. Suppose you take that knowledge and try to apply it somewhere and you're wrong. Knowledge is a weapon and a shield. Sometimes it protects, sometimes it kills. The most important thing is to always have an open line of communication. My point here is this: how much does it really matter what the reason was? A young man is no longer with us. Stop prying. There are people who are out there trying to use this as a "teaching" moment. They're going to be selling bracelets. The proceeds will go to suicide awareness and/or the Nash family.
Rebecca Wharrie May 08, 2012 at 03:22 PM
It is hopelessness and pain that causes suidide, period. The cause of the hopelessness and pain isn't going to be helpful for anyone to read because all of us have different thresholds for desperation that could result in hopelessness. What will help us for the future, for that next child, is to know the signs of suicidal thoughts and actions. We need to know our children as best we can, recognize changes in personality or behavior, and not EVER be ashamed to seek the help of others, including professionals. I think it's a normal reaction for people to wonder what would drive someone to such a tragic choice because we wonder if it could happen to us or people we love. It's just not healthy for grieving family and friends to see details about what may have led Ryan to his choice written on the Internet. Maybe we could all give it a rest?
Victoria May 08, 2012 at 03:41 PM
RIP. #RN20 <3
Jerome O'Connor May 08, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Thank you for sharing your insight.
Etan Koznetsov May 08, 2012 at 10:04 PM
People it's great to see that you care, BUT RYAN NASH WAS NEVER BULLIED!! Please stop spreading ignorant statements and false information! Don't talk if you don't know the story!
God child May 08, 2012 at 10:58 PM
I go to Carl Sandburg high but I never knew Ryan but I'll pray for his family and friends . R.I.P #RN20
Shaffon May 09, 2012 at 02:04 AM
ryan you and me werent the tighest but its ok i have mad respect for you and you will be missed dearly. i honestly wish you could just see how much every1 loves you , i watched u graduate and sadly i cant anymore but it doesnt mean you're forgotten or wont be in ANY1's prayers . WE LOVE AND MISS YOU SO MUCH RYAN!!!!!!!! #rn20 ~love ShAfFoN n SaNdBuRg kids~ (n andrew and stagg n yeah just about every other school that misses you and your cute smile.<<<<<<<<3333333 u ryan.!!!!!)
Charlie yale May 09, 2012 at 02:12 AM
I've never met Ryan but he seems like a nice and athletic kid from what I hear. My good friend took his life two months ago and I was devastated. To all his family and friends: stick in there and stay strong he is in a good place
Sandburg mom May 09, 2012 at 02:32 AM
So sad....
Eileen Kost May 09, 2012 at 07:23 AM
Ben, Two of my family members committed suicide. To this day there are no answers. People jump to conclusions as to what their thoughts are of why someone chose this final decision. There will never be an answer. My husband committed suicide 20 years ago. Handsome and successful in life in my eyes, but hopeless in his own. We will never know what drives individuals to this final act. There's no blame that we can contribute to this final act. I don't think that this is a rational decision. We know that, but the person in pain has no other choice. People asked me if I saw any signs. How insensitive of them! If I had the insight, I would have gotten him help! Had he still been here if I saw signs? Probably not! If not then, another day he would have chosen to end his hopelessness. Unfortunately, my husband didn't ask me for help. He turned to "friends" for help. They didn't recognize his anguish! Perhaps Ryan shared some secrets with his friends. Perhaps they didn't recognize his anguish. Rest in peace Ryan. Your troubles are gone. I believe your are with the angels. Look at all who loved you. You will be with them again one day. Survivors of suicide need love and support. There's nobody to blame! Ryan made his own decision. Don't look for answers! You won't find them! My heart goes out for Ryan's parents. It will take time to heal the wounds of losing a child. Life will never be the same for them. Eileen Kost, Orland Park, Ill
Ethan Richard Hufnagl May 09, 2012 at 12:27 PM
He lived in my neighborhood . Lots of love . <3. #RN20
Ethan Richard Hufnagl May 09, 2012 at 12:28 PM
He lived in my neighborhood . <3. #RN20
KC May 10, 2012 at 08:09 PM
As a parent of two Sandburg students, I just want say how VERY PROUD I am of all the students at Sandburg. Your support for Ryan and his family has been unwaivering. You grieve him as a community of people who loved and respected him. I see you all honoring Ryan by lifting eachother up, loving eachother and pulling together as a school community. Creating something positive from such a tragedy- (maybe saving someone else from suicide with all the open dialogue) is something most adults would not be able to do. SANDBURG EAGLES- I am proud of you. You are all wise beyond your years. Stay kind and love eachother! MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
Carol May 11, 2012 at 01:34 AM
This has not only touched the Orland Community. The love and support from Lockport has been amazing too. My niece goes to Lockport HS and she said they all wore black on Monday and White onTuesday and the kids are writing #20 on their shoes and clothes in honor of RN #20.
Franklin Cook May 11, 2012 at 03:31 PM
A number of free resources designed to help people bereaved by suicide are available through the "Suicide Grief Support Quick Reference" (http://sg.sg/griefreference) a tool developed by Unified Community Solutions and a work group of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Consumer-Survivor Subcommittee (1-800-273-TALK/8255).
Joan May 14, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Whether or not bullying, a relationship breakup, a family problem, a fear, a threat, a comment by a teacher or a respected adult, whatever...the world lost a young man who had value. The school will look into the problem, the family will sort out the circumstances that led to his death, and his friends will forever remember a friend who came and left too quickly. As for the bully comments, it may or may not have been present in his life. If it was, the bullies should take a step back and realize the damage they do. For, it is they who have the disturbed minds lacking attention and needing control. The energy that everyone has should be focused on how to make the school and world a better place IN Ryan's honor. Stop the bullying in the hallways, encourage more positive ways to communicate in relationships (in and out of the home), recognize the signs on depression and suicidal tendencies and speak up even at the cost of losing a friend, and live simply by the Golden Rule that we all learned in kindergarten: Treat people the way who want them to treat you. My prayer is that all people with suicidal tendancies get help and realize that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Let Ryan's memory live on by changing the world to be a better place. RIP


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