Youth Journalism International
KNOXVILLE, Tenn., U.S.A. – The sanctuary, or “big church” as we called it,
looked plain and old with its dark brown pews, walls painted off white and a
deep red carpet.
Though northern New Jersey’s Grace Church had a rather boring appearance at
first, rays of sunlight poured from large glass windows and the people who
packed the pews and worshiped the Lord with music and sermons filled it with
enthusiasm and life.
Among the nearly 200 people gathered on Sunday mornings, one teenage boy
captured everyone’s ear.
Tyler Clementi, a red-haired boy with sea green eyes and round glasses framing
his serious and composed face, stood up front, off to the side.
He was reserved and didn’t stand out as either incredibly tall or muscular.
It was Tyler’s music that turned heads to stop and stare.
As he played his violin during worship hymns or church offerings, Tyler’s sound
was clear as a bell.
It cut through the silent church, mesmerizing everyone in the room.
Tyler Clementi, seated by himself in the second pew, on the right, during a
gathering last fall of the youth group at Grace Church.
Photo provided, used with permission.
The notes he played were ever-changing, but always smooth and soothing.
Tyler played with passion and grace with every stroke of his arm and touch of
his delicate fingers to the strings.
There aren’t really any words to fully describe the beauty of his music, but I
can say that he was an incredibly talented violinist with a promising and bright
future ahead of him.
Not only was he gifted in the arts, but he was very involved in our little
church, attending many youth group activities and never ceasing to amaze us all
every Sunday morning.
Tragically, a horrible act of bullying and cruelty is the reason to why this is
all I know, or will ever know, about the young and gifted Tyler Clementi.
Tyler, a Rutgers University freshman, was secretly filmed a couple weeks ago in
an intimate encounter with another man. His college roommate, who used his
webcam to capture the footage, broadcast it live on the internet and spread the
This private moment of affection, displayed for all to see, proved to be too
much of a shock for young Tyler.
Three days later, on September 22, Tyler jumped to his death off the George
Washington Bridge in nearby New York City.
He was only 18 years old, the youngest of three brothers.
Tyler was just a normal guy, the same as you and me.
Tyler never said very much or interacted with the rest of the youth group at the
church I attended with him until I moved out of state a couple years ago.
He had a way of keeping to himself most of the time, and no one seemed to think
much or care about his reserved personality.
From what I remember, no one would have ever guessed that he was gay.
Three years younger than him, the thought never even crossed my mind to talk,
wave, smile, or even acknowledge his existence.
But now that he’s gone, I can no longer say any words of encouragement about how
much I loved his music. I can’t flash a smile his way or talk about everyday
topics such as the weather.
Now that he’s gone, I wish I had – or for that matter, that anyone had – made
the effort to reach out to him.
Tyler Clementi, left, with the youth group at Grace Church three years ago.
Cresonia Hsieh, who wrote this story, is holding a notebook and sitting on the
Photo provided, used with permission.
It’s true that our days are busy and filled with people to see and places to go.
We run from place to place without stopping to even take a breather.
Few people break away from this cycle to chat with the kids who always sit alone
at lunch or never have anyone to hang out with on the weekends. Seldom do people
see the no-one-knows-your-name girl converse with the beautiful and incredibly
poplar captain of the cheerleading team.
For some absurd, ludicrous reason, this just isn’t how society works.