by Lisa Tome
On January 31, with the parting words "I'm sorry, Mom" posted on social media, Daniel Carducci took his own life.
An uncharacteristically selfish act for a teen who spent most of his life putting others first.
Carducci, 17, a Perryville High School senior, honor student, athlete, farmhand, dad's best friend, mom's boy and devoted little brother, used a gun that was legally registered to his father. Danny was familiar with the gun. He built it himself and used it while target shooting with family, and killed himself.
He left behind his stunned family, school community, teammates, and host of friends.
The family, father Dan, mom Stephanie, sister Lauren, and Lauren's longtime boyfriend Dane Smith, who had worked with Danny Carducci at Lovdal Farms, are now seeking ways to help so no other family has to endure their pain.
"He loved baseball. I coached him his whole life...he was an all star five times," said Dan Carducci.
He also loved the Jeep his family gave him five months ago. "He was not a materialistic kid. He wouldn't get new shoes for the school year. He saved every penny he made," said Stephanie.
He was also the kid in the school lunchroom who bought meals or snacks for kids with no money. He wanted to be a U.S. Marine or study law. He was always on the honor roll.
"I find myself asking the question (why). He was very unselfish. Suicide is the only selfish thing he ever did," said Dan Carducci. "He was my best friend. We worked in the garage. He liked working on cars...he had his own tools and toolbox.
He loved baseball and we played almost every day. He was never the greatest player, but he was the hardest working," Dan Carducci said.
His mother said Danny was a "managed" depressed kid. He had ADHD and depression but wasn't medicated for either. He hid his pain.
The weekend before he died, the teen threatened suicide. His family spent hours talking to him and were convinced that he was just depressed because of a recent break up with his girlfriend. They were confident that he was okay.
"We don't hold her (the girlfriend) accountable," Dan Carducci said. The girl is part of Carducci's family now and is welcome in their home.
"We didn't realize. We thought it was typical teenage love," Stephanie said.
He bounced back, continuing to make the grade at school and work.
"He had a big heart. Too big," Stephanie said.
"People should make time in their busy lives. It's never enough. Spend time and look for telltale signs, inactivity, isolation, depression," Dan said.
"If any kids make a threat, take it seriously. We talked for hours about it. I was with him. We played video games. We worked in the garage, rode in his Jeep." He also said he thought his son had bounced back and didn't plan to kill himself. "I had zero indication."
Smith said that working with Danny was a joy, "He was a phenomenal kid. He hid his depression so well," said Dane Smith.
Danny Carducci wasn't an alcohol or drug user.
"He was sleeping a lot but he was working at the farm more," Stephanie said.
Dan thought his son recovered after his bad weekend. His dad talked with his son about the impact Danny's "not being around anymore” would have. He said 'I don't want to hurt anyone, let alone Lauren and Mom'," Dan said.
He left no note, just the parting words on Instagram. That social media post alerted his sister and best friend, who found Danny dead at the family's home.
"He was unselfish, focused, and determined," his mother said.
The family attends the church where Dane's father, Donnie Smith, is the pastor, Antioch Baptist Church in Havre de Grace. The Smith family and many others have supported the Carduccis. The family also offers thanks to so many - Perryville High principal Justin Zimmerman for providing Danny's senior pictures for the memorial, Perryville High's Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Perryville baseball, Rising Sun Little League, Grace Bible Chapel, students from Perryville and Rising Sun High, the Smith family for putting the family up for a week, and the Chiominto family.
Stephanie scheduled the memorial for her son for a Friday so teens could be with their families and process her son's death without having to worry about school. "We are worried. We still keep in touch with his close friends and his girlfriend. We check up on them and they check on us," Stephanie said. Sports events at the school were shifted so students could attend the memorial.
Dan Carducci provided the eulogy at his son's memorial service. "That was the hardest thing by far in my life," he said.
Danny's favorite food was tacos. The community supplied all the fixings for walking tacos for the heavily attended service. Everyone was invited to feast in his memory.
Josh Hamer, a John Carroll student who was killed in an auto accident just over a year ago, was a friend of Danny Carducci. The two played baseball together and a game, a benefit and remembrance, will be held. Perryville High School will play John Carroll at Harford Community College on April 6 at 6:30 p.m. The admission fee for the game will be $5. Proceeds will benefit suicide prevention causes. The family also donated remembrances to www.help4mdyouth.org.
The Carduccis will also be part of the Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention, September 29, in Harford County.
"We're taking it one day at a time. The first couple of days we were minute-by-minute. Now we're day by day," Dan said. The family has sought counseling and have joined support groups. Stephanie Carducci is considering starting a support group for suicide survivors because she said the groups meet once a month and she'd like to attend more frequently.
"He thought he didn't have any friends. But he wound up having the best friends," Dan said.
After her son died, Stephanie learned that he had saved a girl from suicide when the girl was in seventh grade.
"It's still hard to believe he would do it. He was overwhelmed," his father said.
"The community has been overwhelming - kind, understanding, supportive, and generous. It makes us proud to be part of this community. We want to give back through suicide prevention," they said.