Friday, January 6, 2012

Death of Young Railfan Pinned On Bullying By Schoolmates

Editor's note for younger readers: The following story deals with the death of a 13 year-old by suicide. For younger readers, I recommend you discuss the issue with your parents, pastor or another counselor before reading this post or it's related links.

Now, to proceed...

Alex Frye in an undated photo
from Casper Star Tribune
A 13 year-old Cheyenne boy, whose knowledge and love of railroads was twice his size and age, died earlier this week from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a field south of Cheyenne's Union Pacific yards, acccording to a Casper, Wyoming Star Tribune article. Parents and friends had little or no warning that Alex Frye was considering taking his own life. What a lot of them knew, however, was that he was regularly bullied at school. Going back to school after Christmas vacation was likely something that became a major factor leading to his death, according to his father, Bill Frye.
“He was just too upset to go into school, for whatever reason — the kids were picking on him yesterday, or things like that,” Bill Frye said. “He didn’t want to go back to that.”
His stepsister is convinced bullying is to blame for his death:
“One-hundred percent in my mind, no doubt, this was sparked by bullying,” she said. “He got along great with his dad. He got along great with our mom. He had so much going on in his life that wouldn’t have turned him to do something.”
From my own experience, when a child is that age, a problem like bullying dominates their thoughts and produces phenomenal amounts of stress. Yet, the very introversion that makes a child a target for bullying is also what can make the magnitude of the problem more difficult to detect.

The editorial was brief, but pulled no punches.
It's the witnessing of body language, which women are a little more in tune with, that reveals truth, if one pays attention. I don't blame people for their incontinent ignorance, as it is a cultural malady. The end to bullying may be had at the hands of parenting education, parents in general being the least educated faction of our infantile culture, descendant from the more civilized days when our precedents lived in the tribe and people were more important than their employed jobs, which constituted civilization, now in its ignored demise, like yesterday.
Whatever the ultimate cause, Cheyenne lost one of its best and brightest young lights over New Year's. Alex was "an old school gentleman" in a kid's body. He was a young railfan who engendered such trust that a Wisconsin train crew let him drive their locomotive after only 15-20 minutes of conversation. Given how much time he spent at the rail yards in Cheyenne, it's probable that many or most of the Union Pacific employees knew him on sight. Such a death leaves so many questions and very few answers.

While educating parents, whatever that may involve, may be helpful in preventing future tragedies, the temptation to criticize in hindsight and speak out of anger at the situation, i.e. "Why didn't they ...?", the loss of any child is one that requires discretion. Pet solutions and causes can and will be discussed by those outside the situation, but it would be wise for most to consider, "What if it were my child at the mortuary?" Such fixes and solutions might not be so helpful for parents struggling to come to grips with an empty bed, an empty chair at the table, or a silent model railroad layout. May God give them--and all involved--comfort and peace that transcends understanding in such a difficult time.

A tip of the cap to Jeff Ford for sharing this story.


  1. There's some who were shunned like this kid was. Some people tried to get some railfans to think that they were stupid, yes stupid to believe that there's a such thing as friends. There's someone who might be hell bent on driving a particular railfan into exile and painting a person who is a railfan as "pure evil" and turning as many friends of his as possible into enemies and basically vaporizing any opportunities at a 2nd chance, such as a truce. Former classmates who were friends turned into enemies the second I came clean about my railfanning hobby. I decided to shut them out if they wanted to be stupid and hold a grudge against me just for my hobby

  2. I work with a grief support group and the issue of suicide comes up many a time. The fact of it is, sometimes there is NO warning at all. In spite of what the editorial said, even the most loving and attentive parents can only do so much. The schools need to be educated also, and foster tolerance and kindness among the students. Such a sad and needless tragedy...there is seriously wrong with a society that can "punish" someone just for an innocent hobby. We need more young people like Alex in this world!

  3. EthelG, Thank you for your thoughtful comments, and I echo wholeheartedly your belief that we need more young people like Alex. The pain at the torture for being different is very real, as I know from my own experiences. Advocates and alternative education opportunities might help, but each situation is unique and there is no uniform solution. An important part is discussion and raising awareness so that fewer and fewer fall victim to the lie of suicide as a solution. He would be three years older and his family would be much different, and much happier. God help his friends and his family!

    Thank you for adding your voice, EthelG!


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