COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — It was a gathering of mixed emotion for about 15 teenagers in front of Worthington Kilbourne High School.
They were there to remember the tragedy that changed them forever just one year earlier. That was the day a beautiful, outgoing young lady took her own life inside her house.
“It definitely feels like it just happened,” Hailey Malone said. “Throughout the year it’s sunken in more, but the feelings of loss are still there and strong.”
Her friends are convinced years of bullying played a part in the tragedy of Ally’s suicide.
“Ally was not afraid to be who she was,” her friend MollyKate Cline remembers. “She was loud and put herself out there and some people didn’t like it. They were judgmental and I think that played a part in her decision.”
Ally’s friends were devastated, but wanted to turn their grief into something of meaning. So they named themselves “Ally’s Angels” and created a website in their friend’s name.
AllyFranks.com is a place where you can find shared pictures of Ally along with thoughts and reflections about who she was and how her loved ones miss her. It also has considerable information on spotting the signs of depression or suicidal behavior and includes numbers for suicide hotlines and mental health services as well as what to do if you are bullied.
“I’ve had several girls tell me they have called the numbers,” says Lucy Cesear, the mother of one of the Angels who is the site administrator. The site has received thousands of visits and Lucy says she has noticed a change in Facebook language. “When something posted that is inappropriate or there is talk about something inappropriate, some will step up and call them out and post hashtag remember Ally Franks?”
The group, which has tripled in size in a year, gathered in front of the school to paint “Remember Ally Franks” on the school rock and to launch fire lanterns in her memory.
“It’s like a metaphor,” says the mother who leads the group in releasing the lanterns into the night sky. “We don’t want to let go; we must let Ally fly to freedom. Ally is free.”
They all joined in saying, “We miss you and love you Ally!” as 15 lanterns take flight. The emotions are also released. Tears flow, hugs and a resolve is restated to live life differently as their friend is remembered.
“I am nicer now,” one reports and another echoes a resolve. “I want to live each day and hope to help someone else who’s bullied, or is in depression, because I know what it’s like to lose someone.”
You can visit the site by going to AllyFranks.com.