The tragic events of a September night in 1994 have played over and over in the minds of Dar and Dale Emme.
Why didn't they come home just seven minutes earlier?
Now, nearly 10 years after discovering the body of their 17-year-old son, Mike, dead in the front seat of his prized 1968 Ford Mustang, the Emmes have stopped with the woulda, coulda and shoulda routine.
They aren't supposed to know why they pulled into the driveway of their home at 11:52 p.m., just seven minutes after their son signed his suicide note, "Love, Mike, 11:45," and pulled the trigger, Dar Emme said.
Instead, they continue to devote their time to preventing suicides such as the one that rocked their lives.
"Knowing what I know, I feel driven to help others," Dar Emme said Wednesday, shortly after she and her husband captivated Steamboat Springs High School students with a presentation on suicide.
The Emmes, founders of the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program, spend their time traveling to cities such as Steamboat, where suicide is a very real issue. A 2002 anonymous survey of Steamboat high school students indicated nearly 40 percent had considered suicide. Many said they also attempted it.
"It's something we've become very concerned about," Principal Dave Schmid said. "Of all the statistics that came from that survey, that was the one that really hit you in the face. It is a major issue for not only our school but also our community."
Despite the prevalence of suicide in society, people, particularly adults, have a difficult time discussing it. Many parents think addressing the issue will increase the likelihood their children will attempt suicide.
"Adults don't talk about suicide," Dar Emme said. "It's because we don't know how to, and we don't know it's OK to."
Many also consider suicide an issue for troubled or problem kids. The Emmes say studies say the opposite: That most kids who commit suicide are "good kids" from caring families such as theirs.
"Mike had everything to live for," Dar Emme said. But a humiliating break up with the first true love of his life proved too much for the promising Westminster High School student to bear.
"It's OK to ask for help," she told students. "Sometimes, life hurts too much to do it by yourself."
"There are many days I've had to ask for help, and that doesn't make me any less of a man," Dale Emme said. "It makes me human."
High school students received a yellow ribbon card, which advises them to "Be A Link" to "Save a Life." The card tells people to stay with a person who may be suicidal, to listen and take them seriously and to get or call help immediately.
Too often, Dale Emme said, people are scared to reveal that a friend or loved one may be considering suicide.
"This is the one secret you don't want to keep," he said. "It's better to lose a friendship for a couple of weeks than to lose a friend for life."
After the assembly, students returned to classes, where more than two dozen professional counselors and therapists from across the community volunteered their time to lead discussions about suicide. School staff attended a training session with the Emmes before school began Wednesday.
In one class, several students said they knew peers who either considered or attempted suicide. Still others said they knew someone who committed suicide, be it a family friend, a relative or a neighbor.
Elle Mann, a junior who was among a group of leadership students who wrote an El Pomar Youth in Community Service, or EPYCS, grant that funded the Yellow Ribbon assembly, said the presentation was well worth it.
"It takes a lot to keep every kid quiet, and they were," Mann said. "I think it touched every student in some way."
School officials and the Emmes hope it did more than touch lives. They hope it saved them.
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