05/22/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT
If teachers and administrators at Columbine High School could have picked anyone to represent the best of their student body in the wake of so much tragedy, it might have been Greg Barnes. The 17-year-old junior was not only an honor student, he was gracious, popular and one of the finest athletes the school had produced—a 6'4" basketball star who had been first team all-state and was already being recruited by Division I colleges around the country. "He was the hardest-working kid we had," says Rudy Martin, basketball coach at the Colorado school. "He was everything a coach could want and more."
All of which made his May 4 suicide even more stunning to a community already devastated by tragedy. Around noon that day, Barnes evidently walked into his family's garage and hanged himself with an electrical cord, as a Blink 182 song with the lyric "I'm too depressed to go on" ran on a CD player. Although the first anniversary of last year's Columbine massacre had been observed only two weeks before, and Barnes had hidden with classmates in a science room during the shootings while a coach, Dave Sanders, 47, bled to death on the floor, there was no evidence at all that he had become another victim of the slaughter, belatedly overwhelmed by his feelings. Indeed, given that he left no suicide note, the cause remains a mystery.
In the days before he died, say school officials, Barnes had shown no outward signs of abnormal behavior. He had by all accounts a close relationship with his parents, Mark, 48, a probation officer, and Judith, 47, who works at a supermarket, as well as his 13-year-old brother Doug. At his May 9 funeral, which drew more than 2,000 mourners, those who admired him were left feeling all the more bereft. "The one thing I know is that he's carried us on the basketball court for two years and now we carry him," said Martin, whose team served as pallbearers. "We are going to carry him in our hearts as long as we live."