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Jamey Rodemeyer's parents reflect, 10 years since son's suicide in Williamsville

Posted at 12:00 PM, Jun 10, 2021

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WKBW) — Ten years have passed since the nation's eyes were focused on Western New York, after the suicide death of Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old in Williamsville.

"Every single day is what if," said his mother, Tracy. "You can't continue to live like that because it's too late."

Jamey's father, Tim, has felt a level of responsibility in the decade since his son's death.

"When your child commits suicide -- you cannot not feel responsible," Tim said.

Between 2011 and now, the Rodemeyers say they've learned so much about themselves, their strength and the importance of supporting LGBTQ children.

"The more kids see this and it's not hidden from them, they find more acceptance," Tracy said.

Acceptance was something Jamey struggled with. In May, 2011, he told the world about his bullies and his sexuality. He came out to his parents as gay.

7 Eyewitness News Anchor Ed Drantch speaks with the Rodemeyer family about lessons learned.

In September, 2011, Jamey died by suicide.

Ten years later, Jamey's parents say bulling is still an issue that needs to be dealt with.

"These kids need help," Tim said. "The schools need to step up with this problem of bullying and I don't think they take it seriously enough."

According to a 2017 survey of LGBTQ youth, done by the Human Rights Campaign, only 26 percent of those surveyed say they always feel safe in their classrooms.

A mere five percent say their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ people.

The Rodemeyers say they wish they had taken Jamey more seriously. But they also say their own culture and mindset had to change.

"I didn't understand what it felt like to be like to be gay or imagine what it could be like," Tracy said. "It's one thing for someone to say you're so gay. We grew up saying that and not really understanding what we were saying. Throughout the last ten years, it took me a while to not use that phrase."

Tracy went on to say, "the world right now is so politically correct and some people are like 'oh it's so overdone.' But when we look back, it's like look at the things that we say that are just so bad."

That idea of understanding and acceptance has become key for this family.

"There's a lot of times where your children don't come out to be what your idea of what your child is going to be," Tim said. "If you're not going to be able to accept that, you should really think about not having kids."

A decade later, their eyes are open to what's happening around them.

"Our biggest thing is step into somebody's shoes and that's what our last ten years have been," Tracy said. "I wish we did better. I wish he was still here. But to me, I think he was a sacrifice that his message has reached and helped more people than just him being one person."