Rebecca Sedwick (family photo)
Lakeland, Florida - On Monday, 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick climbed an abandoned cement factory tower and jumped to her death. Investigators and her family say bullying pushed her over the edge.
Once the balloons and cards are gone from the makeshift memorial in front of the cement plant, her mother wants Rebecca's message to live on: that words do matter.
"They would tell her she's ugly, stupid, nobody liked her go kill herself," says Tricia Norman, Rebecca's mother.
Rebecca left behind cell phone videos. Tricia remembers her daughter being a silly and happy tween just days before her death. "Her attitude was great... she was the old Becca," says Tricia.
Unknown to Tricia, bullies had a strong hold on her daughter. Tricia says, "The bullies won. They got what they wanted. They wanted her to kill herself. It left all of us heartbroken and empty."
Tricia is now on a mission, going online and using the same tool bullies used to attack her daughter to fight back. She's launched a Facebook page - Rebecca Sedwick Against Bullying - with nearly 6,000 likes in only four days.
Tricia says, "I loved her so much. It's the least I can do for her."
Rebecca's own words from her journal motivate her mother. Tricia reads a quote about bullying she found: "Every day more and more kids kill themselves because of bullying. How many lives have to be lost until people realize words do matter?"
Tricia is taking Rebecca's message nationwide on network TV. "All adults need to listen. If a kid says, 'Somebody is bullying me and threatening me repeatedly,' they need to listen," says Tricia.
And to the victims, Tricia says there's hope. She says, "If you are being bullied, tell an adult. If they don't listen, go to somebody else. Somebody, somewhere will listen. Don't ever give up, like Becca did."
Tricia's goal is to see bullies suffer tougher consequences. She says, "I would like there to see severe punishment for bullies."
Meanwhile, investigators continue unraveling online messages between Rebecca and about 15 girls and say it's possible cyber-bullying charges may be filed in Rebecca's death.
Friends are holding a fundraiser this Sunday, September 15 and the following Sunday, September 22 to help pay for Rebecca's funeral expenses. There will be a car wash at the 7-Eleven located at 5870 US Highway 98 North and Daughter Road from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The funeral is Monday, September 16. The viewing will be from 9 am to 11 am at Whidden-McClean Funeral Home, 650 East Main Street. A Celebration of Life will immediately follow at 11 am. The burial will be at Oak Hill Cemetery in Lakeland.
The family asks that everyone dress in bright colors, because Rebecca did not like black.
A bank account has been set up at Community Southern Bank in honor of Rebecca Sedwick. Condolences to the family can be made at www.whiddenmcleanfuneralhome.com