I did my best to stand my ground as I felt the mass of bodies up against my own. My throat longed for relief as I let another excited scream. The sound from the stage replaced the blood in my veins as I jumped in time with the music. Excitement coursed through me as I allowed the energy of the crowd around me to take me over. My eyes lit up with the fire and the lights on the stage. My voice drowned in a chorus of fans as a I cried out the lyrics to the song the band was playing.
“What time is it,” my sister yelled from next to me. I shrugged and watched as she pulled out her cell phone to check. “It’s almost 10:30,” she called to me, and my heart sank. One of the best moments of my life was coming to an end.
I let out another scream of excitement with the fans around me as the song finished and the lead singer smiled out at all of us. Then the stage went dark and a video played in the background. I watched, lost for words as the word of my peers from around the country filled my ears. In ten words or less, different voices told different stories, but they all spoke of the same thing. The spoke of sadness. They spoke of fear. They spoke of what it’s like to know that you don’t belong.
“What you’re about to see is true.” The words in the background told the crowd. “This is Amanda Michelle Todd. And this is her story.” At that moment the music started and I sang along, for I knew the song well, but I also kept my eyes on the screen. There was a young girl there, with note cards in her hand. On those notecards, she shared her story.
It didn’t take long before the lyrics of the song stopped leaving my lips. I just stood there and stared at the screen. I read each card the teenager shared with us, and slowly, the tears began to roll down my cheeks. As the singer sang of bullying, I could only stare.
“This isn’t right,” I told myself. “This isn’t right at all.” My chest tightened as I read the words she shared with the crowd. It was the one word I saw that truly set me off. “I started cutting myself” she’d written, and my heart exploded. That was something I could strongly relate to. One bad decision, made by a child, had led to that.
“This isn’t right.” I told myself again. I looked to my right at my sister to find that she was thinking the exact same thing. She looked like she too might explode in her sorrow. I looked back up at the screen to see the girl’s story continue. She wrote of regret. She cried out for help. Then, as the song went on, my sister began to chant along with the crowd.
“We don’t have to take this, back against the wall! We don’t have to take this, we can end it all,” she chanted, and I began to chant with her. It was a cry for change. It was the sound of sorrow, the sound of need. It was the sound of unity. In that moment, the crowd was united in their love of the music, and their hatred of what this teenaged girl had been though.
The whole crowd was chanting as the girl finished her story with the words, “my name is Amanda Michelle Todd.” As the song ended, the dates came up on the screen. They read, “Nov. 27, 1996 - Oct. 10 2012”. It hit me harder then. She never lived to see sixteen. The band that played was paying tribute to her. “Stay Strong” the screen read as fire came blasting out of the stage and fans cheered.
“Thank you so much for being here tonight,” the lead singer called out to us. I shouted my approval, feeling that I’d found some new respect in this band. The stage seemed to explode with fire as the guitarists and drummer of Shinedown played their final notes. Our hands went up in the air as the stage exploded for one last time, and everything went dark.