In January, Phoebe Prince made the decision to end her life. She was fifteen years old. Her younger sister found her hanging in the stairwell of their apartment. Phoebe was the victim of bullying at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts. Her family had moved to America in the autumn of 2009 from Ireland. Phoebe was the new kid in town. And she was not met by the Welcome Wagon.
A freshman at So. Hadley High, Phoebe probably...maybe... dreamt of attending football games, semi-formals, giggling with girlfriends, getting her driver's license, going to concerts and finding Mr. Right. I don't know for sure. I never met Phoebe Prince but I wish I had. I wish I could have put a protective cloak around her and protected her from the bullies ~ the seven girls and two boys who saw it as their right to ridicule Phoebe constantly with verbal abuse. Nonstop. Throwing cans at her as they drove by. Drawing obscene pictures of Phoebe and hanging them for all to see. Emailing her, texting her, Facebook bullying, calling her obscenities as she entered the classroom. 24-7. I have a heavy feeling in my gut as I think about how Phoebe felt every day when she entered
I have been having flashbacks to my days in junior high school. The new kid in town, I was bullied by three girls. Three mean girls. Nancy, Valerie and Maureen verbally teased me and physically pushed me around ~ I avoided the stairwells and empty hallways. I feared being locked in a locker - yes, I was quite skinny back in those days and easily could have fit into a locker. They told me they were going to shove me in there and that no one would find me for days. Looking back, I now realize that I probably would have been found alive but at the age of 13, it was a threat that I took seriously. They pulled my hair. They elbowed me hard. I went home and cried. Mom told me to ignore them. I tried. Fortunately, after a year of this abuse, someone new moved into town and they moved onto their next victim. Phew.
So I am now obsessed with Phoebe Prince. There has been a fair amount of finger pointing as to who is at fault. The school, the bullies, the parents of the nine bullies, society at large...you and me. Have you ever looked the other way when you have witnessed a bullying situation ? Would you step in and get involved ? We must. Our society must take a stand against the bullies of the world. And I mean that wholeheartedly and sincerely.
When my husband and I were in Washington, DC recently, we stood in many lines throughout our visit. Musuem lines, restaurant lines, White House lines...but we were patient and chatted quietly while waiting our turn. One day we were in a long line while in the Smithsonian. There were fifty people behind us in line. I know because I counted them while waiting patiently. I noticed two teen-age girls quietly walking up the aisle, cutting everyone in line. I thought to myself, 'No. They wouldn't dare cut fifty people. They must know someone in line.' Well. Apparently they thought they knew me because they cut right in front of me. Out of all those people they picked the wrong lady to cut.
"Excuse me. You don't really think you are going to cut in front of me, do you?"
They turned and just glared at me.
"I am in line. I have been in line and you are not going to cut in front of all of these fifty people. The line forms at the rear, girls." I smiled, sort of.
They realized that I am teacher material. They realized that I am uncuttable.
"Oh. We didn't know there was a line." And they turned themselves around and went to the end of the line.
People around me thanked me, stating that they were glad I spoke up. They wanted to but they didn't dare. They didn't want to get involved.
Well, I am going to get involved. I am a protector of the underdog. I will take on the bullies of the world. I want to get into my car and drive down to South Hadley and have dicussions with the nine bullies who took Phoebe's life. I wonder if they were bullied at some point in their life. I read with sadness that one of the girls wrote 'Accomplished' on their Facebook wall the day after Phoebe ended her life. I want to talk to the parents of all involved. I want to help.
This is not the world I want my grandchildren to grow up in. I want their world to be one full of love, rainbows, four leaf clovers, peace, daisies, balloons and nonstop laughter ~ a life of celebration. I will don my supergrandma cape and protect them from the bullies, remembering Phoebe Prince and the life that was stolen from her.