There’s no question that certain stories affect me differently now that I’m a mom. Case in point: Circle of Friends, as this story was called. It haunted me. To say that it was kids behaving badly is the understatement of the century. They behaved callously, immorally, unthinkably, offensively. A teenage boy died and his “friends” could possibly have saved his life…except they didn’t. They just stood there and watched it happen. They were, as one later told police, too interested in saving their own asses instead.
Of course, it starts with a party of underage drinkers — at the home of a high school jr. whose parents were out of town. Beer leads to brawl. One guy punches another who falls backward onto a patio, hitting his head. The boy, Rob Viscome, is convulsing. Fluid seeps from his head. His lips are turning blue.
These are, for the most part, wealthy kids – nearly all had cell phones. But no one called 911 for help. Nobody. Not even the girl whose home it was –and who was supposed to be Rob’s date at the upcoming prom. They knew their cell phone numbers would show up and they’d be tagged for being there. They didn’t want to be caught partying with the booze and goodness knows what else.
Instead, a few of the guys eventually hauled Rob out to a car. (They dropped him a few times along the way.) They left him at an ER with a story that he’d fallen off a jungle gym. The police weren’t buying that story. And the hospital wasn’t equipped to handle a head trauma, so Rob had to be medivacced somewhere else.
By this time, he was in a coma. Rob was hooked up to machines for a week, and then his family pulled the plug and let him go. He died just shy of his 18th birthday.
The kid who punched Rob faced criminal charges. But the circle of “friends” who’d stood around him that day and done nothing…faced nothing. It’s not a crime in NY to watch someone die. The law couldn’t touch them.
I think I know my sons, and I think they would not do this.
But I also think a lot of the parents of these kids probably believed the same thing. It’s hard to grock that no one’s moral compass kicked as a friend lay dying. Peer pressure? Obsession with keeping your record squeaky clean as you head down the straightaway toward college? Maybe. We listened to recordings of the police interviews with the kids rounded up afterward — the denial, the sheer stupidity really — was unbelievable. The police chief later said every single one of those teenagers knows exactly what happened at the party, and they’ll have to live with it for the rest of their lives. I hope they do.
I’m making sure my sons watch this story. Probably more than once.
This story was produced by the amazing Julie Cohen — now an independent film producer whose is still making gripping and thought-provoking television. You can find her at http://www.betterthanfiction.tv