It is a medium-sized, detached house on a quiet suburban street, its sidewalks lined with trees shedding their brown and amber autumn leaves. His upper-level bunk bed still has his black-and-white comforter on it although, Jane smiles, it is freshly laundered; a house guest has slept in here.
Beneath the bunk is the white chair where Tyler liked to sit and read. The black-and-white print he loved of a forest is still on the wall above his desk. Later, I realize Tyler stood where I am standing—just in the doorway, his back to the window—to take the selfie he used on his Facebook page, where on Sept. Ravi boasted of his actions on social media, with goading comments—which Clementi saw—aimed at encouraging people to watch Clementi. Clementi, who had only come out to his family three weeks previously, had asked Rutgers to move him from the room, and to punish Ravi.
The case became the epicenter of a heated debate around cyber-bullying, and anti-gay crime. Was Ravi homophobic or just boorish, and was the legal case and redress leveled at him too little, or too much?
In the subsequent trial, held in , Ravi was convicted of all 15 charges facing him, the judge criticizing his apparent lack of remorse. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail; he ended up serving 20, with time taken off for good behavior.
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We will not share your email with anyone for any reason. Jane still has her day job as a public health nurse, and her husband, Joe, is a civil engineer.
The Clementis have also just helped set up the Tyler Clementi Institute for Internet Safety, with New York Law School , aimed at combatting cyber-bullying, and training lawyers to litigate such cases. Then I would write my journal and read my devotionals in here. He kept it neat. Whatever happens in the appeals court, whatever is written here—and Jane Clementi cannot bear to read or watch much of anything that has been written or broadcast about her and her family—her much-loved son will still be dead.
The horror of that is in those many sentences that just peter out to nothing. These silences at the end of her sentences are like the moments that crystallize all kinds of grief: Nothing can bring that loved one back.
There is a picture of him playing the violin, which he loved and which he practiced as a young boy on a unicycle, and which he later played in orchestras. I assume it is another award or commemorative symbol. The other option was to cremate him. So Joe and I decided to cremate him. Just one decision was hard enough. We agreed to go look at urns. We both were drawn to this for its simplicity and thought it would be something Tyler would like. I was thinking about self-harm and self-hurting myself.
I was thinking about ending my pain. He would have been a key witness of the prosecutor, and the case would have been for him. They were not continuous. I came very close—but no, nothing. What I wanted to do was to escape.
I just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up again. That [jumping] would never have been my method, but those were dreams I did have early on. I prayed for God to take me, and I prayed to die. I wanted to know Tyler was in a good place, but that was not helpful to me. Some people gave me a book about heaven. The mornings were better than the nights; in the former she would journal, and read her devotionals, then at night her mood would darken.
I needed to give him every minute, every breath. It came at a time of night—around 9 p. Joe picked it up, and told her she needed to listen; the police had some information about Tyler.
She smiles that her other two children were so bad at responding to messages at college it would have been nice to have one for them, too. I just asked specifically. There was talk he had run away, that there had been foul play. Maybe he had been taken and they left his cellphone.
I could hear my mom wailing. I knew someone must have passed away just from those sounds at that point. Both my parents looked completely distraught, they were struggling to get the words out. I thought my grandmother had passed away. The idea Tyler had ended his life at that point was completely unthinkable.
He had started college a few weeks before. He was a healthy year-old. I think my mom did have some hope. I think I knew. I was completely shocked by it. It was weird, like processing and understanding at different times. This was going to be the first time we had seen him in three weeks. He sounded fine, Jane says, there was no talk of the webcam incidents that had unfolded and about which she knew nothing. Instead, mother and son talked about a road bike he had just saved up to buy.
Tyler had already ridden it from Ridgewood to Harriman State Park a couple of times. Worried it might be stolen, Tyler had chosen not to take it to Rutgers. Jane asked him if he wanted them to bring it to him.
His final decision was a no. Maybe I started another topic. Silences in conversations are uncomfortable for me: In that pause about the bike, was he contemplating telling me about the webcam? You just downward spiral into a bad place of what-ifs and how-comes. I was thinking it must have been. And yet there were moments of living and making plans, then the very next moment feeling so broken and empty and such nothingness. There was that back and forth, so I could relate to that.
She found that helpful, she says, Joe less so. If she was with people one-on-one she would just cry, if there was a group, the collective presence was a balm to her. The police called, and wanted to identify items found on a body. I struggled with these questions for years, because they always took me down a very terrible path: Jane and Joe had met Ravi and his family the day Tyler had moved into their Rutgers room.
Ravi had to be prompted to greet the Clementis. At the time, Jane attributed his aloofness to him being shy, and also he had gotten there late and was struggling to set up his computer tower with his dad. He had dismissed Tyler as a possible friend to talk with and be in the same room with.
He logged in to read it all many times, Jane says. He had just come out to her two days before leaving for school. Both Joe and I told him to be safe and careful.
That summer of , Jane and Tyler had walked past the memorial—made by her friends—for a rising senior in Ridgewood who had committed suicide. I was surprised he was gay. I was really surprised because we talked about James a lot and he never said anything in all those conversations. Both she and James laugh. Yet Tyler felt the way he did after he had told Jane he was gay. I suppose it could be. What was the commonality, the reason, the cause?
Now I see it as a blessing. But things bounced around my head, and I was surprised, and, yes, upset too. But I was also upset he was going away to school. It was the normal progression of life, but mothers are sad when their children go away to school. When he was a year old, they stopped going to church, resuming again when he was 7, this time as Presbyterians. When he was 13, they switched to an evangelical church, which was anti-gay.
At some point in middle school I felt like the only person who had those feelings. I never saw gay people around me.