There are things that happened unexplained. People sometimes believe that everything happens for a reason. But as I try to think of the reason why Jadin Bell hanged himself in February only to be joined in death by his Oregon father, Joe Bell, in October, I find nothing. There’s no greater meaning or some hidden message in two souls dying. Or maybe there is, because even though like father like son they both left our world in 2013, leaving huge messages in terms of defending two of the most important issues we are having in the modern world: bullying and homophobia.
According to the authorities, Joe Bell was struck by a trailer tractor along a Highway 40 near Kit Carson, Colorado at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Bell was killed during his “Walk for Change”. Starting April, 2013 the 48-year-old Joe Bell had embarked on a walk across the United States to honor his dead son and raise awareness for anti-bullying and of course LGBT issues.
Investigations point out that the 49-year-old semitruck driver who hit Bell from behind might have dozed off while driving. The truck company, Farold Inc. cited the driver for careless driving resulting in death.
The reason behind Joe’s legendary across-state walk was made in memory of his 15-year-old son, Jadin who committed suicide this February under the pressure of being bullied for his sexual orientation. The bullying –both in school and online- was too much to bear and apparently, Jadin, the brave soul that he was couldn’t take it anymore. He had hoped to move to New York someday, where he would live among people who didn’t judge him but unfortunately he didn’t live to see that day. Jadin hanged himself at an elementary school playground and was rushed to hospital soon but couldn’t make it and died, leaving a gap in his family’s life. Instead of drowning in the sorrow, Joe took it out to try and reach out to people, educate them more on bullying. Joe had stated that the bullying culture starts in our homes and how people raise their children. A change must be initiated and instead of waiting for it, Joe hit the road, embarking on his walk across America to talk to anybody who would listen and educate people about the grave consequences of bullying. Joe aimed to save lives, losing his life in the process.
Nothing can describe how I feel about Joe’s death. Deep, penetrating sadness fills me. Yet pride in the way he chose to honor his son’s death. Joe’s pilgrimage might even change our lives. It might open the eyes of the closed-minded, bigoted or conservative people who would feel guilty about how they viewed gay teens or maybe even campaigned against them. It would teach us how words are the most powerful tools to make a change, to invoke tolerance and save lives.
Many memorial services have been held in honor of Joe’s unfinished mission. There was a memorial celebration on October 13th, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Another memorial service was held on Thursday at Gilbert Event Center on the Eastern Oregon University campus in La Grande, Oregon. There was also a Candlelight vigil in downtown, La Grande. Being Egyptian and unable to attend any of these services, I choose to light my own candles. I light one for Joe and one for Jadin. I hope from the bottom of my heart that wherever they are –which I am definitely sure would be a better world than this- they are happy. The candles are still lit, services are being made, and awareness will not cease to be raised. However, there’s still a long way to go if we actually want to end bullying and homophobia, Joe might have given us a hint: we walk, we talk.
Written by: Jaylan Salah
Joe’s “Walk for Change” website