FORT LEE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — It was an emotional day for the family of Tyler Clementi – the Rutgers University student who committed suicide after his roommate secretly videotaped him with another man.
As CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes reported Sunday, Clementi’s mother, Jane, 55; and brother, James, 28; went for the first time to the spot where Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge in 2010.
Flanked by loved ones and supporters, Clementi’s family remembered the grief and horror of the day he took his life.
“It was very difficult,” said Jane Clementi. “Obviously, it’s a symbol of great sadness for me and our family, but it’s also a symbol that we can have hope.”
At the time of his death, Clementi was just 18 and had recently started college at Rutgers. His death sparked a massive conversation about bullying – especially toward gay youth.
“We need to be the change,” Jane Clementi said. “We want to see it in the world, and we must make sure there is never ever another Tyler again.”
As WCBS 880’s Monica Miller reported, two men trying to make that happen joined them. Ronnie Kroell and Elliot London — the founders of the anti-bullying initiative the Friend Movement walked 37 days from Chicago to New York to raise awareness about bullying and remember Clementi.
Kroell and London, who now live in Los Angeles, set out from Chicago’s Millennium Park on Oct. 5, Mike Krauser of Chicago’s WBBM Newsradio reported. They walked not only to raise awareness of the problem, but to remember Clementi and others like him.
“Friend Movement believes that the opposite of bullying is friendship,” Kroell told Grymes Sunday. “You can be your own best friend. You can be a friend to those around you.”
At each mile during their journey through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, Kroell and London placed a purple ribbon after each mile as a memorial to bullying victims who committed suicide. Speaking to WBBM Newsradio’s Krauser last month, Kroell said he hoped the movement would help empower people become comfortable in their own skin.
“When they look in the mirror,” he said, “they can say ‘I love you,’ and when you can do that you walk through the world with an air of confidence and you become less likely to become a target and you’re less likely to bully someone else because you feel good about yourself.”
On Sunday, Jane Clementi expressed gratitude to Kroell and London for their efforts.
“You were able to bring awareness, and shed light and attention on these really, really important issues of harassment, bullying, intimidation and suicide prevention,” she said, “and I thank you so much for that.”
Kroell and London walked with Jane and James Clementi, and dozens of supporters, over the George Washington Bridge. They held purple ribbons and flowers as they walked.
Jane Clementi said since her son’s death, people are more aware that action and words can hurt others. But she said more change must happen.
“We need to make sure we embrace our differences, and that we teach words, and speak words of love and kindness,” she said.
She said all people must be allowed to feel safe, included and respected.
Clementi was a victim of cyberbullying. He committed suicide after he learned that two students recorded him on a webcam kissing another man and invited others to watch the stream.
Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, was convicted of 15 criminal charges, including bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and tampering with a witness. He served 20 days in jail. Molly Wei reached a deal with prosecutors to avoid trial in exchange for her testimony at Ravi’s trial.
The Friend Movement’s walk covered 921 miles.
“If we can walk nearly a thousand miles and inspire anyone to do anything, then we know we’ve done our job,” London said.
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