More than a year after his brother’s death, James Clementi has written a beautiful, haunting tribute to Tyler Clementi’s all-too-short life.
In the essay “Letters to my Brother” published in Out magazine, Clementi reacts not only to his brother’s suicide, but also to his sudden celebrity.
“I wonder what you would think, seeing all the commotion you’ve caused. It is surreal and meaningless to see you as a mere story on The New York Times, a brief glimpse at a life with none of the detail. You were a typical college freshman, trying to adjust to a dorm room, make some friends, meet a cute guy, and enjoy your independence, and no one noticed. The headlines tell of how you were violated and ridiculed; your last moments are a cautionary tale, a scandal, something to sell and entertain.”
In September 2010, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after a video of Tyler with another man was allegedly released by his college roommate. The Rutgers freshman’s story quickly became a symbol in the fight against cyberbullying and homophobia. Following Clementi’s death, even President Obama released a video message condemning the events that led to the suicide.
The piece is accompanied by a photo slideshow of the brothers as youngsters, highlights the small things James misses most: the sounds of Tyler’s accomplished violin playing and his regret of never sharing how much he admired Tyler’s confidence and strength.
“I’ve heard the story so many times: how you did it, the night you jumped. The first time, and every time I’ve been told about it, read it in a paper, heard it on TV, or dreamt about it at night, it still confuses me. I know you and I know that is not who you are. And that is never how I will think of you, alone and cold and at the end.”
James, who is also gay, wants Tyler’s life to be more than a cautionary tale. His writings paint a portrait of a young man who was much more than the story of how his life ended.