No parent ever wants to have to bury one of their own children. Sadly, though, that was the situation with which Amy Briggs was faced after her son, Daniel, took his own life. Then, perhaps while looking for some closure on her devastating loss, Amy came across some text messages on Daniel’s phone. And when she read one of the exchanges, what it said sickened her to her core.
Back in 2015 Amy was living in La Fargeville in the state of New York. At that point, she had been married for over two decades; she and husband Rob were also parents to sons Michael and Daniel. And in a 2015 YouTube video posted by non-profit organization Champion of Choices, the proud mom would describe her two boys as “beautiful children.”
Amy revealed in particular that Michael is “a great kid” and a very sporty young man with a penchant for playing lacrosse. Michael’s mom also revealed that he is smart and, at one point, had even been the most academically accomplished student in his class. His brother, though, was different to Michael – and, in fact, to many of his peers.
Amy explained in the Champion of Choices clip, “Daniel was an old soul. He had a soft side of him that was second to none for a kid his age. He wanted to help people.” Indeed, it appeared that Daniel possessed a measure of empathy not typically seen in many teenagers. Moreover, that seemed to have led to a caring nature that sent the young man out of his way to assist others.
“Our neighbor down the road had cancer, and Daniel was by his side every day,” Amy further revealed in the video. She added, “Daniel went over and sat and talked to him and held his hand. And after he died, Daniel went over and helped his wife.” What’s more, Daniel didn’t feel himself forced to make selfless gestures like these, his mom said – that’s just how he typically behaved.
Unfortunately, though, Daniel had often been bullied. The kind-hearted young man had been tormented by others throughout most of his school life, in fact. And that could have been in part down to the fact that he enjoyed hunting and trapping – a pastime quite far removed from the activities that many of his peers enjoyed.
Indeed, in spite of his caring nature, Daniel had a tough time fitting in at school. And thanks to his unusual hobby and lack of interest in sports, he struggled to bond with other students. It’s this, his mother believes, that made her son stand out from the crowd. It also, as it turned out, may have set him up as a target for bullies.
And the attacks on Daniel were brutal. As Amy would explain in the Champion of Choices video, “It started out with words. He was called just horrible names.” She continued, “It progressed to having trash thrown at him. He was punched in the stomach [and] made to lick a bus window.” And as time went on, the physical abuse grew increasingly worse.
Furthermore, it didn’t seem to matter what Daniel did or said; the bullies would always find something to torment him about. Indeed, Amy revealed, “They looked for any little thing just to make his life miserable.” And on one occasion, she has said, her son was set upon from behind as he made his way to the bus. Heartbreakingly, Daniel had already known that he was going to be jumped.
In fact, Daniel had even received a text from the perpetrator the previous night, telling him that the attack was going to happen. “Why?” was the 16-year-old’s reasoned response. He added to the bully, “I know you don’t like me. That’s why I don’t come near you, I don’t have any interactions with you. I respect that – why can’t you respect me? What have I done to you?”
But Daniel’s plea seemingly fell on deaf ears. Instead, he was told, “Because you’re a p***y and you need your ass kicked.” It was a reply that Amy had failed for ages to comprehend. Perhaps nothing, however, could have prepared her for what she eventually saw on her son’s phone.
That’s because one of the bullies had texted Daniel, saying, “Why don’t you take one of your precious guns and do the world a favor and go kill yourself?” And as the suggestion was so over the top, perhaps no one took Daniel’s reply seriously, either. He said, alarmingly, “You won’t have to worry about me anymore. I’m going to go home and kill myself.”
Daniel didn’t just tell the bully about his plan, either; throughout the day, he also spoke of suicide to other students in class and at lunch. And when the bus driver said, “I’ll see you tomorrow, Dan,” as he was dropped off home, he would reply, “You won’t see me tomorrow.”
Amy later recalled, “The one person [Daniel] knew that would do something was the last person he texted and the last person he called: his hunting friend Matt. He knew Matt would try to call us, and he said to Matt, ‘Please don’t call my mom. My mom will take me to the hospital.’”
Matt, however, tried to keep Daniel talking while gesturing to his sister to alert their dad. Their father was a friend of Daniel’s dad, and he in turn went on to get in touch with Rob. But the Briggses were at Michael’s basketball game, and so Rob failed to pick up. After seeing the notification on his phone after the game, though, Rob vowed to touch base with Matt’s dad when they got home.
Then, within moments, Rob received another call from his friend Wally. That could have been the moment that the Briggses knew something was wrong; Daniel’s dad and his buddies were not big on phone calls, after all. Subsequently, Rob rushed back to the Briggses’ vehicle and uttered the chilling words, “Daniel’s talking suicide.” And as the family sped home, Amy contacted a neighbor and urged her to look in on Daniel.
The woman duly entered the house and called out to Daniel. Then, after the neighbor thought that she had made out a reply, she shouted, “We love you!” The next thing that she would hear, though, would be a shotgun going off. And when Amy arrived back home, she headed immediately to Daniel’s room and into a horrifying scene. She screamed; Michael, however, simply cried, “I want my brother back.”
And Amy has since thought about what she would have done had she not returned too late. She told Champion of Choices, “Knowing what I know now, I would just wrap [Daniel] in my arms and beg him and tell him how much he means to so many people. He did matter. He does matter.”
In the video, Amy also gave advice to anyone dealing with individuals that have talked of suicide. She said, “When somebody tells you that they are going to kill themselves or they are going to do harm: do something. Tell somebody, give them their 15 minutes. Validate them. Because everybody needs to be validated.”
And Amy added, “When you know there’s somebody being bullied, don’t be a bystander. You are just as guilty as the bullies when you stand by and do nothing.” She concluded, “You see it, you do something about it. You don’t want to intervene, then you talk to an adult. And you talk to an adult until somebody does something.” Hopefully, then, those words will help save a life someday.