Two days before Tyler Clementi went off to college, he told his mother he was gay. She described him as being relieved and eager to go off to college. That is why Joe and Jane Clementi, his parents, were so shocked when one month later, he committed suicide.
"Over those two days we had further discussions," his mother said. "I needed a little time and had to process it, I was like, 'You're sure you want to go to school?' and he was, 'Yes, and I'm going to do this and that,' you know, classes and organizations. He was very upbeat about going."
The Rutgers University freshman killed himself after his roommate allegedly used a webcam to stream video of him kissing another man. And now, in the midst of their grief, his parents are committed to supporting others faced with bullying or considering suicide, especially because of their sexual orientation.
Fifteen months after their youngest son jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge, they have created The Tyler Clementi Foundation. They say it is their attempt to harness all the attention his death garnered and channel it for something good.
"Something good has to come out from such a terrible tragedy," Jane Clementi said.
The foundation is intended to promote awareness, education and intervention for young people at risk for suicide, especially in the LGBT community.
"It just seems the time has come to address this problem," Joe Clementi said. "We want to help people. We love Tyler very much and we want to help as many people as possible. We were devastated by the loss of our son, and we still are."
They are a soft-spoken couple, who never wanted or expected the spotlight but now feel compelled to do something.
"I'd like to see the teen suicide rate driven down," Joe said. "I'd like to see incidences of cyber bullying driven down and I'd like to see better acceptance for LBGT teens."
They both wear matching bracelets that spell out the creed of the foundation, "LIVE=LET LIVE."
While they would not comment on the upcoming trial of Dahrun Ravi, Clementi's roommate who will stand trial in February on 15 offenses, including bias intimidation, they did say they have never heard an apology or anything from Ravi or Molly Wei, whose computer Ravi allegedly used. "It's not necessary, probably, Jane said. "It would help for the accountability to know they're talking accountability for their actions, for whatever alleged actions they've been charged with, but it's not necessary for my healing. We'll heal without that."