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How Could This Happen?

posted Oct 11, 2013, 10:01 AM by Frank Thomas   [ updated Nov 8, 2013, 9:34 AM ]
From Marle Becker

After being on the radio for almost 25 years now, I've had the privilege of covering a lot of different territory and a lot of guests; some great, some just okay. However, every once in awhile - rarely, mind you, very rarely - you hit upon a guest that touches you so deeply that you think of them over and over again, long after that conversation on the radio took place. You wonder about them, you care about them, you want to speak with them again, and you want people to hear their story one more time.
On May 7th of this year, I had the incomparable gratification of speaking with one of those rare exceptions, a young father from La Grande, Oregon, by the name of Joe Bell who was walking across country in tribute to his dead teen son, Jadin, who committed suicide after years of being bullied because he was gay.

Joe had just started his journey a few weeks before the evening I interviewed him. In our conversation, he told me his mission was to raise awareness of the impact and the horrific consequences of bullying, on the victims and the families. Joe was warm and loving and caring, proud of Jadin, and clearly heartbroken by the tragic loss of his beloved son.
It isn't often when I arrive home after a broadcast feeling as if the show has made a profound impact on people who listen in. When that kind of connection happens, you can usually feel it while the program is in progress; the adrenalin flows and it is an amazing appreciation.  That interview with Joe Bell reminded me just how lucky I am to have the resources and the opportunity to bring stories like his to the front lines.

I've thought about Joe Bell many, many times since that Tuesday on May 7th; wondering how the walk was going, how the change in weather might impact him and just how far across the country he might be. We even had a plan to celebrate the success of his journey; when Joe reached his destination, my friend and my co-anchor on the show that evening, Trish Spoto, made a date with Mr. Bell, promising to celebrate the success of his journey by taking him out to dinner here in NYC.  He was so thrilled by the invitation, that he telephoned me the next afternoon to let me know that our dinner date was one more incentive for him to complete his journey.  He also told me that his son, Jadin, had always dreamed of living in NYC.
Just this very morning and all through the day, I thought I might give Joe a call and see about doing a follow-up on the next show, this coming Tuesday.  Alas, it wasn't to be.  An item on the Internet this evening caught my eye. The headline read: "Father Tragically Killed While Walking Cross Country to Honor His Dead Son". I knew in my heart it was Joe Bell. I am slammed, I feel as if I've lost an old friend or, at least, a new one.
RIP've had a huge impact on me