January 2010, my husband and I were in the car on our way to Maine to enjoy a restful weekend. As usual, my husband was driving and I wa jumping around the various apps on my phone. Scrolling through my Facebook and Twitter feeds I spotted a post about a young girl in Hadley, Massachusetts who committed suicide. Immediately I was clicking on links to discover why. Why would this young girl kill herself? In the series of video clips and articles that I devoured my heart broke. It broke for Phoebe. It broke for her family. It broke for all of us.
Do you remember her? Phoebe Prince. The fourteen year old girl recently immigrated from Ireland. The freshman who caught the eye of a older football player at her school. Who dated that older boy and paid dearly for it. For three months, other girls (the "popular" girls) tormented Phoebe. They taunted her in school. Cornering her in the library, bathroom, and hallway calling her a whore. These girls threatened to beat Phoebe up, prompting Phoebe to ensure she was never alone in school. They made harassing phone calls to her home, sent her mean-spirited text messages. They went on Facebook and ridiculed her, calling her an "Irish slut". On the last day of Phoebe's life, as she was walking home from school, one of her tormentors drove by her and threw a full soda can at her head.
But that wasn't all. I wish it was. What I later read is what makes a place in my heart for Phoebe Prince. I wept when I read that after her death these same girls that tormented Phoebe were continuing to harass her. They were publicly proclaiming at parties/dances and on Facebook that they were glad Phoebe was dead. It appeared as if they felt no remorse for her death. All I could think about was her family. Could someone be so insensitive that they would leave disparaging remarks on a memorial page? A page that was viewed by Phoebe's friends and family, those who loved her?
And for all of those things I will remember Phoebe Prince. I will always imagine the fear she felt as she walked through her school. I will always imagine how helpless she felt when she attempted to protect herself by going to her school's administration and them failing to do anything about it. I will always imagine the pain her family felt upon losing her. And their hearts being ripped apart when others spoke ill of their long-lost daughter. I know that there were others before Phoebe, even as far back as 2003 (that I can recall) and others that followed. And it saddens me that they are gone from this world. That they felt suicide was their only option to escape their pain. But for me, it was Phoebe that changed my views on social media and mean-spirited behavior. And for that, I thank her.