Posted at: 11/01/2013 11:47 PM
Updated at: 11/04/2013 9:55 AM
By: Dan Levy
PATTERSONVILLE - A grieving crowd began turning a family tragedy into a community-wide crusade Friday night.
The main theme of the candlelight vigil at the Pattersonville Fire House, in addition to memorializing the short life of Jack Gannon, was to begin spreading the message that bullying is not only epidemic but it's unacceptable, and there's no place in society where bullying could, or should, be tolerated.
Following last month's suicide of Schalmont High School freshman Jack Gannon, the community held the vigil in Jack's honor, determined to stamp out the bullying that may have contributed to his death.
Robin Zebrowski says she would do anything for one last chance to see her son, or to hold him, or to sit down with him to belt out a few tunes that they loved to sing together.
"I don't know why he didn't come to anybody," Zebrowski says, choking back tears, "I won't know that for a long, long time."
His parents say Jack was a fun-loving kid, with a small group of friends. But it wasn't until after Jack's death that they found out on Facebook that their son had been a victim of bullying.
"If anybody can explain to me why he is not here at 14 years old when he had his whole life ahead of him, please just explain it, because I do not get it," Jacquie Gloeckman, Jack's grandmother, wept.
The youngest speaker at the vigil was Jack's 10-year old sister Lili, who had a message for bullies.
"If you want to say sorry to him now," Lilli said, "You could (say a prayer) before bed and just say, "I'm sorry!"
Jack's grandfather, Bob Kettner, spoke about the senselessness of bullying.
"I'm going to beat you up, you're going to beat me up, you're going to come after me with a baseball bat, I'm going to come after you with a gun. Where does it end?" Kettner asks rhetorically.
Jack's father, Don Zebrowski, was anxious to reach out to any and all teenagers who were willing to listen.
"You guys can't keep it in, you have to let it out," Zebrowski advised, "You have to tell somebody. If you can't tell your parents, tell somebody."
Robyn King was a bullying victim when she was a little girl and is now an expert on the subject, currently on sabbatical from Schenectady Community College, and traveling the country to lecture on the psychosocial impact of bullying behaviors.
King says for Jack Gannon not to have died in vain, everyone needs to work to turn adversity into action.
"Write a letter, make a phone call, make a poster, make t-shirts to wear in high school," King suggests, "We're not going to let this happen any more. Today is the day to end it. Bullying ends with me!"
Don and Robin Zebrowski say they're going to keep talking about bullying until people listen to them. They say they're not looking for retribution, but rather, want to make sure Jack has a voice, so that, as a family, they can raise greater awareness of the bullying problem.