Podzilla 1985

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Ones We Don't Save

Remembered if outlived
Amanda Todd was fifteen when she killed herself last week.

She was from Vancouver, but had moved around from place to place over the years because of a mistake from her past that kept coming back to haunt her.

Young and spirited, she thought she had found a kindred spirit online that had charmed her into doing things she knew she shouldn't do. When she was in seventh grade she exposed her chest on camera for the person, who then used it to make her life a living hell.

No matter where she went to start fresh again, the picture would come back into her life. The unidentified monster even created a Facebook page using the photo as his profile picture.

Her fellow classmates were no better to her. They didn't want to be seen with her. They taunted her, humiliated her, and in some cases were even physically violent towards her. Amanda spent her time all alone, and quickly fell into a depression she would never recover from. She turned to drugs, cutting, and anything else she could find to take the pain away for the briefest of seconds.

Nothing worked, and when the pain became too much for her the pretty young Canadian took her own life, one month before her sixteenth birthday.

As sad as this story is, it is unfortunately not uncommon. What makes Amanda's story different is what she did before her last day on Earth. It could have been a cry for help that no one answered, or maybe just the final farewell of a girl who had already made her mind up. It was a testament to the loneliness and misery that Amanda Todd went through, and it is a painful reminder to us all that there are people out there who need someone.

Amanda Todd recorded a video a month before her death, and in the small frame of the black and white recording is the torment of a girl who couldn't be saved.

This is Amanda Todd's pain, a final miserable gift for the entire world to see.

Her words hurt. They make you feel guilty, even if you never knew the girl existed. And, to be fair, not many people did until now.

And that's the saddest part. It's always too late. No one could save Amanda, and Lord knows she was too young and in too much pain to save herself. 

But it isn't your fault. You didn't know Amanda Todd, how could you save her life?

They might not be the same bright eyed teenager with the beautiful smile, but odds are you've known plenty of people like Amanda in your life. Whether it was in school, at work, or just in certain social circles, there are Amanda Todd's everywhere. 

I remember being back in school in Southern Illinois and being a fairly popular kid. Do you know how I kept my popularity in a school environment that was volatile and abusive? By being abusive right back. I just wish I had aimed the venom at the people who deserved it, and not the down trodden kids who looked away when you passed them by because they were afraid of what you would do to them. In junior high I was one of the boys because I had a gang mentality and used it against those who I knew wouldn't fight back.

At the time we laughed it off as the rules of the school. We were too young and stupid to realize the implications our selfish and cruel acts would have on the people we were abusing. 

I was a bully.

I could try to justify it now as being in a bad situation, but the truth of the matter is you always have a choice. You don't have to take the easy way out, and sometimes it just takes one persons bravery to save one life, if not the entire world. I think about how that kid would have felt if I had stuck up for him and let him know that he was fine just the way he was. I probably would have taken an ass kicking, but it would have been completely worth it to make a difference, even if it was just to one person. 

One person is worth saving.

Before I changed the way I saw the world.
I got what I deserved in high school. Things changed, and suddenly I was the target. Every day, every week. I couldn't walk down the hall without being punched. I was yelled at and ridiculed, for no other reason than I was there. I fought back at first, but it didn't last long. Eventually I gave in, I hung my head, and I avoided eye contact because I was afraid of what they would do to me.

My mother pulled me out of school before anything terrible happened. I don't know what would have happened to me if she hadn't. I might have slit my own wrist. I might have shot up my high school before Columbine etched its place in history.

I was lucky. I was spared from the torment, and in the years that followed I found myself and saved my own life.

Even our own resident model Christine Adams experienced the horrors of bullying, as she told us thanks to the unlikely new friendship between she and I.

A young Christine Adams, victim of bullying.
"I had my lunches stolen, my books stolen, pencils thrown at me. I got beat up after classes sometimes and no one ever talked to me. I used to be a teacher's pet and stay in during recess so I wouldn't get bullied."

She goes into more detail on her site of her early years dealing with what, for some, is a miserable time that can destroy dreams and even lives if left unchecked.

Not everyone is so lucky. Not everyone receives a helping hand, or finds the inner strength to overcome their torment.

Some people, like Amanda Todd, never find the someone they need. They deal with their own pain, occasionally smiling or laughing, putting on their best performance so they don't garner more attention. They feel guilty, believing they deserve or it or that they bring it on themselves.

Not all of them take the pain out on their own bodies, though.

In recent years there has been an alarming increase in school shootings, where bullied kids who feel they have nowhere left to turn take their fear and aggression out on often innocent people. Columbine set a tone of despair and violence that haunts us even to this day.

Had we known before what we know now, maybe we could have stopped terrible incidents like that from happening. If we were more educated, maybe we could have stopped those two boys from destroying so many lives. In the years since we have become a nation aware of the real risks of bullying, and how we were fools for chalking it up to being part of growing up. The world is evolving, and with that evolution comes a better understand of the fear and hopelessness we all feel, especially at such an impressionable time of our lives.

Yet, so many years later, with so much research and progress, why was no one there to save Amanda?

Even now, in the wake of her tragic death, people bully her. On pages dedicated to her memory are cruel and ignorant messages of hate, written by cowards who hide behind the anonymity of the internet. These are the same kind of deluded idiots who drove her to kill herself in the first place, and they should all feel responsible for that girls death.

With age comes wisdom, and now that I'm a little older I can look back at how I talked to and treated  other people when I was young and foolish. I would never laugh in someones face or post about how someone deserves to die, but I was known to make a passing joke about someones misfortune. I wish moments like these, when something truly terrible happens, could teach the world and make it a better place. But I'm not a fool. That won't happen, because there are too many people out there who thrive on the misery of others. And that is the greatest tragedy of all.

There will be more Amanda's, but let us not forget about this one. Say a prayer for the young girl with the beautiful smile, the one who just needed someone to stand up for her. Remember her next time you see someone with their head hanging down because they're too afraid to be noticed.

Notice them. They are Amanda Todd. We are all Amanda Todd. We can save them, like we could have saved her.

And one life is worth saving.
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