EDITORIAL: Gone but not to be forgotten

By Observer editorial October 11, 2013 11:52 am

In moments of tragedy, community is never more important. It has the ability to shine glimmers of hope on otherwise darkened lives.

With heavy hearts, citizens of La Grande trudged through a sorrowful Thursday. News of Joe Bell’s death permeated through town, evoking tears from friends and from those who had never met him but knew of his story.

When Joe Bell left La Grande in April, he left on a mission and was backed — literally and figuratively — by members of this community. He was hope for all the Jadins of the nation.

Joe’s son, Jadin, was 15 years old when he decided to take his life. Family members say he was bullied at school for being openly gay. Joe left on a mission to share that harrowing story across the U.S. so that others may see the consequences of bullying, of discrimination, of hate.

By all accounts, Joe did so with grace and love. He made countless friends in his six months of travel. Evidence of their gratitude is poured out on Facebook in yet another show of community’s importance, even online. Speaking to schools, youth groups and other organizations, he shared a message of tolerance to put an end to bullying. This message no doubt touched many lives.

Joe Bell’s death is a tragedy by definition. Nobody who sent him off in April imagined he would not return. But La Grande is a community undeterred by tragedy. Already a vigil has been set for Friday evening in Max Square. We trust residents will continue to show love and support to the Bell family — and to all those in the area who have tragically lost loved ones this week.

Joe Bell’s noble walk will not be forgotten. He and Jadin have been etched into the heart of this community, and their message will carry on. And as Joe’s Walk for Change said on its Facebook page, Joe “is now continuing his journey with Jadin.”