FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Just hours before Tuesday’s council meeting in Fort Worth, councilman Joel Burns prepared a presentation concerning a bullied boy in Cypress Fairbanks, a suburb of Houston.
“A couple of weeks ago, after being bullied in school, Asher went home, found his father’s gun and shot himself in the head,” Burns told the council.
“The goals for me were two-fold,” Burns said about his presentation. “One, to remind parents that we have to do something about bullying in our schools.”
Burns outlined several similar cases of teens who were harassed because they were gay or perceived to be gay, and then committed suicide. But Burns’ presentation had a second message.
“The second was for, and primarily for, the kids who are in a really dark place — that if they can just wait enough, life will get better,” Burns said.
And the second message involved a deeply personal confession. “One day, when I was in the ninth grade, just starting Crowley High School, I was cornered by some older kids who said I was a f—– and I should die and go to Hell where I belonged,” Burns told the council. “Ashamed, humiliated and confused, I went home. There must be something very wrong with me, I thought. Something I could never let my family or anyone else know.”
Burns paused and fought back tears.
“Catch your breath,” Mayor Mike Moncrief almost whispered.
“I think I’m going to have too hard a time with the next couple of sentences I wrote, and also, I don’t want my mother and father to bear the pain of having to hear me say…”
Burns couldn’t finish the sentence. He skipped over the details he had put down on paper, but his message was clear: Burns too had thought of suicide. “It was certainly something I’d considered quite closely,” Burns later said.
Now, the speech has more than 100,000 hits on YouTube in just a day and a half. Two weeks later, the video logged more than 2,000,000 views. His story about the impact of bullying has made international headlines. And the final message Burns read during the City Council meeting, aimed at young people, has been heard worldwide.
“I know life can seem unbearable. I know the people in your household or school may physically harm you. But I want you to know, it gets better,” Burns said.
Among the thousands of e-mails that Burns received about the presentation were three from teens who said that they changed their minds about killing themselves. “Since Tuesday night, they decided to put down the gun or put down the rope, and that was worth everything,” Burns said.