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After the Fall

The Evans school has seen a lot over the past century -- including a death last spring. But does this building have a future?

The reckless-endangerment and criminal-trespass charges against him were dropped; in December, he received a deferred judgment on the cocaine-possession charge. As a condition of his sentence, he must attend behavior-modification classes to alter his attitudes toward alcohol and drugs. He also attends Mass every week.

"I saw psychiatrists and therapists after it happened, but I think that made it worse," Jim says. "It's like a sore or a wound on your skin. If you keep rubbing it and rubbing it, it's going to break the skin and bleed eventually. I don't want to constantly rehash what happened for a bunch of strangers. My parents are my counselors, and church helps me deal with some of the guilt. Plus, that's the only place I can communicate with Tracy."

An image of her fall is always lurking somewhere in his mind.

The Evans school in all its decay today. Tracy Rollert 
fell from the second-floor ledge at the right.
Anthony Camera
The Evans school in all its decay today. Tracy Rollert fell from the second-floor ledge at the right.
The Evans school in all its historic glory.
The Evans school in all its historic glory.

Some of Jim's friends have stopped calling. So have employers who used to hire him for freelance gigs. He's dropped out of school and is looking for a job; his parents have spent thousands on his court costs. He knows some people blame him for Tracy's death. Sometimes he does, too.

"She trusted me, and she trusted that she was safe when she was with me, and I feel like I violated her trust," he says. "I've gone through my life and done a lot of reckless things, and nothing bad ever happened. If we'd had just one moment where we stopped and said to each other, 'We shouldn't do this; it's not right,' she might still be alive. We never realized how close we were to hurting ourselves."

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