There is no explanation for a suicide, only circumstances to ponder. The recent death of former Columbia Councilman John Hansen by his own hand was thus such a tragic event. By all accounts, Mr. Hansen was a dignified and principled person who felt deeply about his community and wanted to have a positive impact. In addition to his work on the council, he was a member of the Harper's Choice Village Board and had managed the successful campaignof County Councilman Paul Farragut.
His most notable public act, however, was one filled with irony for a man who wanted to be involved in local affairs. He resigned as chairman of the Columbia Council earlier this year in protest over another council member who insisted on taking her seat despite what he considered a fraudulent election. His view was widely held, a court decision led to a new election and the wrong was ultimately made right.
Nothing Mr. Hansen did while on the council was in vain. In his understated way, he was able to effect the impact he wanted. He, along with others, held stewardship over one of the nation's most successful, well-planned and desirable cities. Columbia was improved by his presence.
Were there signs of what was to come? Perhaps. He had suffered a recent divorce and was additionally anguished when his 13-year-old daughter moved with her mother to Texas. He also had resigned as vice president of the Columbia Democratic Club and took the summer off from teaching at Howard County Community College. In his last letter to a friend, he was still trying to make sure things were done right, pinpointing items he wanted sent to his daughter and assigning a friend to handle her assets.
But too much can be made of these circumstances when looking for clues to explain Mr. Hansen's action. For all the searching for answers, we can never fully understand someone's reason for taking his own life. The sad fact is that suicide has a way of reaching out and making victims of those left behind as well as the deceased. We do not want to cause additional pain for the family by over-analyzing this tragedy.
The important thing to remember is that this was a quiet, forthright and conscientious man who tried to make a difference in Howard County -- and did. He will be missed.