When I was 14, I had a Yahoo Geocities website. It was terrible. It was everything you expected from a 14-year-old’s personal webpage—autoplaying music, self-congratulatory inside jokes, and a whole lot of pop-culture (Invader Zim!) references. One of the sections of the site was a “shrines” page, which contained collages of whatever male celebrities I was crushing on at the time. One of these men was Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington.
No more were the posters of *NSync and Aaron Carter. What used to be 100.3 Z-100 hit music radio was now 92.3 K-rock. And crooning love songs were now replaced with angsty ballads of bitterness and betrayal.
I bought blue flame shoelaces from Hot Topic to mirror Chester’s blue flame wrist tattoos. I claimed to have a “thing” for men with lip rings. I made my middle school agenda book cover a meta-collage from my “shrines” page, Chester Bennington taking a prominent position near the top.
14 Years Later – 7/20/17
I was getting ready to go to therapy with my psychologist when I refreshed my Facebook page and found out Chester was dead.
The news broke via TMZ less than 30 minutes before my Facebook friends got to it.
I was supposed to see Linkin Park live for the first time in my life the next week Friday, July 28th – at Citi Field in Flushing, NY.
I didn’t have much time to process before I headed out the door to therapy. The shock was still fresh. “How did this happen?” “I was just listening to Linkin Park.” “What is going to happen to my tickets?”
The last time a suicide of a celebrity affected me was in 2008 when David Foster Wallace hung himself.
DFW understood depression:
The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.
While DFW’s literary musings on depression and suicide gave some insight into his mind in the final days, Chester Bennington leaves only a few interviews, regarding childhood abuse and the dissolution of his first marriage, and the lyrics to his songs.
“Breaking the Habit” seems oddly prescient.
The fact that it was Chris Cornell’s birthday was probably not a coincidence.
Drugs and alcohol probably didn’t help.
But we’ll probably never know what Chester was thinking as he was preparing to hang himself in the early morning hours less than a week before his tour with Machine Gun Kelly was about to start.
Suicide is an awfully complicated subject to wrap when your head around. When it hits this hard and this close, the emotional fallout is hard to predict.
“I don’t think this will affect me too hard,” I told my therapist. “There’s just so many celebrity suicides these days; I think I’m kinda numb to them.”
That was just the shock talking.
I felt it later that night.
David Foster Wallace once said that the purpose of good literature was to make readers feel less alone. I think I can say the same about good music.
Thank you, Chester Bennington, for helping me and many others feel less alone.