LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - As the sun went down Saturday night, dozens of students and parents gathered in an embrace around a lone tree, remembering a boy who they say lost the light of his life too soon, perhaps because he too felt alone.
"He wanted to be around everybody. He wanted to hang out with friends, and I don't know why," said Toni Hobson, a freshman at Lafayette Jefferson High School. "But I think now, he wanted to hang out with friends, because he was sad and depressed, and we didn't know it."
Toni said she was best friends with the 14-year-old Tecumseh Junior High 8th grader who took his own life early Friday morning. Toni and others remembered the student as kind, fun-loving, and "everybody's friend." Even those who didn't know him well, knew of his kindness. In fact, the vigil was organized by a fellow 8th grader who had only spoken with him a few times.
"He was just a fun guy to hang out with, and he was really nice," said Crystal Curtis, who organized the vigil. "When I talked to him, I thought he was just the nicest guy ever. He could be like my best friend, that's how nice he was."
But underneath the surface, there was pain that only became evident in this student's final days. One friend, who may have been the last person he spoke with received this text message, the night before he died: "I hate my life. I want to die," he wrote. She asks what's wrong, and her classmate simply says, "Bye." The next day, she learned he had committed suicide.
Toni Hobson said that her best friend had been bullied.
"But he's in a better place, and he's not going to be hurting, and he's not going to be thinking about, 'Oh, this person doesn't like me,' or 'Do I really have buck teeth?' or 'Do I really have big lips?'" Hobson said.
Toni said there's no way of knowing how big a role bullying played in her friend's suicide. Another friend says Friday would have been his last day at Tecumseh, as he was moving to Rossville.
But as his friends, and even those who didn't know him at all, gathered in his memory, they spoke of the hope that this won't happen again. They urged anyone in the same frame of mind to simply speak up, and ask for help.
"Talk to your parents. Your parents are there for you," Curtis said. "We've got school, we've got counselors. That's why we've got them. Go and talk to a teacher, or a best friend that you know you can trust."
"If he would have told me, then I would have said something," Hobson said. "I would have called his mom. I would have done something to help as best as I could."
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, there are resources available in our area.
The Lafayette Crisis Center operates a 24-hour hotline, with trained volunteers to give confidential crisis intervention. That number is 765-742-0244. You can also reach a referral hotline by dialing 211 if you're in Tippecanoe, White or Benton Counties.
More information on the Crisis Center can be found at http://www.lafayettecrisiscenter.org/ .
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