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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.

Return to Orland Park Patch for updates on this story as it develops.

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Please share thoughts on his passing in the comments below.

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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