JEMISON, AL (WBRC) - The strength of Jill Moore is evident when you talk to her. When you see her, there’s no way to tell what she’s been through.
We first met the soft spoken-mother, now grandmother in 2010 when her 15-year old daughter did the unthinkable - taking her own life. Moore reads a passage from a book by Paul Coughlan, a public speaker traveling the country, that includes Alex’s story.
“It says when Alex Moore, a 15-year-old from Jemison, AL., approached a Chilton County road overpass, I don’t think she had tears in her doe-shaped eyes when she started down the asphalt highway, but I think she hesitated before slipping off her dull-brown clogs and stepping onto the squat. The same holds true for her head-first leap into the morning traffic,” Moore reads.
If you look closely into Moore’s eyes. you can see a heartbreak she can’t put into words.
“I believe she did what she did in the most public way in order to bring as much focus on the problem as could be brought,” Moore said.
Alex Moore was bullied by her classmates at school. While school administrators said they never saw evidence she was bullied, other students told Jill Moore awful stories of what Alex endured over and over again, including intimidation in the hallways, locking her in closets and, in one instance a public humiliation, someone pulled her pants down to her ankles for all to see.
We asked, if so many students knew Alex was being bullied, did anyone do anything to help?
“They didn’t do anything," she said. "See something, say something - that’s what I tell me grandson all the time. If you see something, say something. Don’t just stand there and watch it.
“It was Martin Luther King that said, and I am paraphrasing, the way for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing and I said that’s how people get away with bullying. They see it and not do anything.”
Moore told us afterwards students told her three names of people who mercilessly bullied Alex. She says she reached out to all three on Facebook and asked if they had anything they’d like to say to her. One young man replied, telling her how sorry he was and asked her to forgive him. Moore says she did.
For Jill Moore, Alex’s death was the second child to die within two years.
“When my oldest daughter was killed, it was an accident. It was her boyfriend’s fault,” she said. "He didn’t intend for her to die but he’s drinking and driving and they hit an electric pole and she got electrocuted and it was horrible, But suicide, you think what could I have done. You know, why didn’t they come to me? What could I have done? All the what-ifs. “
Bullying prevention experts say it’s not unusual that children who are bullied may not tell their parents. Sometimes children fear parents will make the bullying worse by getting involved, even though telling parents may just be the lifeline they need. Moore remembers a time in elementary school when she got a notion Alex was being bullied.
“She got off the bus crying and I asked her what was wrong one day. There was a middle school boy that was picking on her and the next day I was standing at the high school where he got on the bus and I called him off and he said, 'I was just playing with her’ and I said, ‘If she’s crying, she is not having a good time,’” Moore said.
A number of young children taking their own lives are even younger than Alex. Recently, 9-year-old Madison Whittsett of Birmingham died by suicide and another 9-year-old, McKenzie Adams of Linden took her own life.
Both families believe bullying was a factor.
Last year, the state legislature named a new bullying prevention law after Jamari Terrell Williams, a 10-year-old from Montgomery who took his own life after he was bullied.
“It’s upsetting, but I don’t guess I am that surprised because the week Alex died we had a fourth grader standing on our front porch telling us that she had thought about doing the same thing Alex did because she had been bullied at school," Moore said. "So, it doesn’t surprise me. It’s heartbreaking.”
Moore has tried tirelessly to get a bully prevention law passed in the state legislature when Alex took her own life, but didn’t get the support.
”I’ve learned that politicians tell you what they want to tell you in order to get their vote and I feel like unless it affects them personally or someone they care about personally, you are not going to get a whole lot done," Moore said.
She’s hopeful about the new law and still a bit skeptical about its effectiveness now.
“You can have all the policies you want, but if you don’t enforce them they don’t do any good," she said.
So, what has to happen for it to make a difference this time?
“Education," she said. "Not just with the teachers and administrators, but the students have to understand what bullying is and how it affects people.”
Moore says students have to be able to see it from the perspective of the person who is being targeted. She is very encouraged by Coughlan’s book called “Free US From Bullying” that talks about Alex. She wants to get it into as many schools as she can.
Around their country cottage in Chilton County, the Moore family has pictures of Alex from a little girl holding a frog, a lizard and whatever animal she could get her hands on. There are pictures of Alex with her older sister whom she adored and pictures with her dad and pictures with Jill.
“The only thing that gives me comfort is the word of God and that is what people tell me, especially with losing two children. ‘You are so strong. you’re so strong,’ I am nothing. I am not anything without my faith and God who gives me the strength to get out of bed in the morning and live another day. I’m nothing, but with Him I have got the strength”.