Remembering an Angel:
Ryan Patrick Halligan
by Kevin Caruso
Ryan Patrick Halligan was a handsome, hard working, friendly, gentle, sensitive, and caring young boy with a great personality and a wonderful sense of humor.
But Ryan faced some challenges at a young age, which included speech, language, and motor skill development issues, so he received special education assistance for a few years.
With hard work and determination, Ryan made great improvements and by the fifth grade no longer needed special education. But some of Ryan’s fellow students began to bully him because they thought he was “slow.”
Ryan’s parents, John and Kelly, were concerned about the bullying and got Ryan into therapy. Ryan made good progress and by the end of the fifth grade no longer needed the sessions.
The sixth grade presented another challenge to Ryan because the middle school that he attended conducted sixth through eighth grade classes in the same building, so Ryan would be around many children that were older and bigger than him.
The bullying continued in the sixth grade, but became particularly bad in the seventh grade
– so bad that Ryan did not want to attend school.
Because of the incessant bullying, Ryan and his dad decided it would be helpful for Ryan to develop some fighting skills, so John bought Ryan some kickboxing tapes, a punching bag, and some boxing gloves for Christmas in 2002. And every day after dinner Ryan and his dad would work out together. If Ryan was ever physically attacked, he would be prepared.
In February 2003, the assistant principal called John and Kelly to inform them that he broke up a fight between Ryan and a bully. The fight shook Ryan up a bit, but he stood up to the bully and got some solid punches in so he believed that the bully would leave him alone from then on.
But the bullying would soon take an insidious turn, as Ryan would become the target of online taunts and harassment via cyber bullying. Some bullies spread untrue rumors about Ryan and others made cruel comments to him. A particularly disturbing exchange transpired when a popular girl at school pretended that she liked Ryan in an instant message conversation, and she got him to say some personal things that she later copied and pasted and sent to other people; she thought it was a “joke” – the same “joke” that she had played on many other boys online. Ryan was deeply hurt by it.
Unbeknownst to Ryan’s parents, Ryan was also communicating with a boy online who was providing Ryan with information about suicide and encouraging Ryan to kill himself. Ryan actually told this boy that he was going to kill himself, and the boy responded: “It’s about fu**ing time.”
Two weeks after that disturbing communication, on October 7, 2003, Ryan hanged himself.
Ryan and Kelly Halligan have worked diligently since then to raise awareness about bullying and cyber bullying by giving talks and presentations to schools and groups. They have also been instrumental in helping establish important bully prevention and suicide prevention laws in Vermont.
Ryan and Kelly are heroes of the highest order and I have great respect and love for them. The entire suicide and bullying community owe tremendous gratitude to them for their outstanding work.
They are angels on earth, and Ryan is now an angel in Heaven.
Please visit Ryan and Kelly’s website:
Ryan Patrick Halligan.org
The Halligan Family
Ryan Patrick Halligan is now one of the greatest angels in Heaven.
We miss him.
We love him.
We honor him.
And we will never forget him.