Bryce Gowdy’s Mom Laments ‘My baby walked in front of a train.’ Georgia Tech football recruit’s mom details his final days.
By Lateshia Beachum Jan. 2, 2020 at 10:23 a.m. CST | Courtesy of The Washington Post
The sad story of Bryce Gowdy should serve as a cautionary tale of what happens when we fail to recognize the warning signs of mental illness. Furthermore, it should also stand as a warning of the consequences of ignoring the cries for help from Black mothers who have become overwhelmed and have nowhere to turn.
Just hours after discovering that her son had committed suicide in the most horrific of ways, Bryce’s mother, Shibbon Winelle, took to Facebook Live to attempt to explain Bryce’s state of mind right before he stepped in front of a freight train.
What she described was a young Black male on the edge of a psychotic break and no one who could provide with the support and help he needed. While being destitute is traumatic for all children, young adolescent males will interpret it and process it different than girls or younger children.
What she shared also revealed that Bryce had become disillusioned with the world and was beginning to see it differently. Please don’t mistake his become disillusioned for a part of his break. While it may have contributed to the break, the way he was seeing the world was closer to how it really is and less like it is presented to the masses. He was likely grappling with how a good God would allow his family to suffer with his mother trying so hard.
Here is what I can tell you, the Black community, it multitudinous ways, failed Bryce and his family. While I am proud that we have responded with over $92,000 in donations, it would have been so much better to have to come to their aid before this young Black male reached a point where he saw no alternative but to check out of the fight. We owed him more than that. ~ Rick Wallace, Ph.D., Psy.D.
Images, symbols, and questions about life haunted soon-to-be Georgia Tech football player Bryce Gowdy in the days before he went on a Florida train track to end his life, his mother said.
The 17-year-old from Deerfield Beach, Fla., died after being hit by a freight train Monday. His death was ruled a suicide by the medical examiner Tuesday, CNN reported.
Gowdy was a promising athlete who had been awarded a full scholarship to play football for Georgia Tech. His future was brimming with opportunity that could have helped him and his family escape bouts of homelessness and financial destitution, but his death has left those who knew him with sorrow and unanswered questions.
The teen, who was one of the top-ranked high school wide receivers in the country, was only a week away from starting classes at Georgia Tech and joining its football team, according to a statement released by the school. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Bryce signed his letter of intent to be a Yellow Jacket in mid-December and finished his high school courses a semester early, the school said.AD
Our thoughts are with the family, friends, and teammates of Bryce Gowdy. https://twitter.com/CoachCollins/status/1211753879907557378 …Coach Collins✔@CoachCollinsWe are heartbroken. Bryce will always be a part of our Georgia Tech Football Family. We will be praying for him and all those who love him.#BelieveIn7 #RIPSimba6184:16 PM – Dec 30, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy104 people are talking about this
He was happy for his future but he couldn’t shake the difficulty of his family’s circumstances, his mother, Shibbon Winelle, said in a Facebook Live video published Tuesday. Winelle declined to be interviewed by The Washington Post.
Family matters, can’t wait to get to the ATL soon!
His behavior had grown pensive and more peculiar, Winelle said.
With tears staining her cheeks as she recorded her response to the numerous calls she had received, Winelle said she and her children were dealing with homelessness and financial strain. They were in a car all day until they found shelter in a hotel room that evening, she said.
Her job wasn’t paying her on time or in full, and she became worried about how she would care for her three children, she said. Bryce’s musings were adding to her uneasiness and causing her to have stress-induced chest pains.
“He kept talking about the signs and symbols he was seeing all over the place and that he could see the world for what it really was,” she said into the camera. “He kept saying he could see people for who they really are.”AD
The hours in the car had been filled with questions about spirituality and about whether his younger brothers would be fine, she said.
Bryce had also grown increasingly paranoid, she said.
Bryce’s father, Frankie Gowdy, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Winelle told her son she wasn’t strong enough to help him.
“You have to dig in and fight these demons that you’re fighting,” she said she told him as they waited for one of his brothers to leave his job before heading to the hotel room for the night. She added that she “had my own demons that I was trying to fight.”
When the family arrived at the hotel, Winelle’s boys went upstairs, leaving the unnerved mom alone in her car with time to “decompress.” Bryce later came down to the car to sit with his mom. He tried to hold her hand, but she wouldn’t let him because he had her so upset.AD
“His energy was so intense,” she said. “I could feel the pain in his soul, and it was breaking my heart.”
The pair made their way to their room, and Winelle went to the bathroom to calm herself more, she said. Bryce would pop in to ask her if she was going to be fine.
She emerged from the bathroom after half an hour to a cold room, so she asked her oldest son to grab her favorite blanket from their car. Bryce obeyed his mother, leaving his phone, shoes and wallet in the room, she said.
Twenty minutes passed. He didn’t show.
Winelle went to the car and noticed her blanket was gone. Panic set in alongside reassurance.
“I sat there for like 20 minutes just thinking — just thinking,” she said. “Like, ‘Come on, I know you’re going to come back. I know you’re going to come back.’ ”
She sent one of her younger sons out to search for him, but she said she knew something was wrong when he returned without Bryce.AD
Winelle cried herself to sleep only to be awakened with confirmation of her fears with a phone call from her brother: There were reports that someone had been hit by a train earlier that morning.
The hospital told Winelle nothing when she called, she said. As she waited, a knowing washed over her before a nurse affirmed her son’s death with a white slip for a detective’s contact information in her hand, she said.
“My baby walked in front of a train and he killed himself,” she tremulously shouted into the camera.
The family is still mourning Bryce’s death, said his grandfather, Frank Gowdy, in a telephone interview Wednesday.
The elder Gowdy said he was at home asleep when he received the news of his grandson’s death. What came after or before the news is still unclear in his grief, he said.
The grandfather of 16 said his grandson was ready to attend college but felt pressure as the oldest to care for his family, he said.AD
Gowdy contends that his grandson always had a place to rest his head and was never abandoned by his large family. Whatever his mother has said on social media is likely coming from a place of hurt, he said.
Deerfield Beach High School is holding a candlelight vigil in Bryce’s honor at its football stadium on Thursday evening.
Grief counselors were available Thursday morning at the school to help athletes, coaches and other community members cope with Bryce’s passing, the school tweeted.
His funeral will be held in his high school’s auditorium next weekend, WPEC reported.
A GoFundMe account created a day ago has raised more than $60,000 to help with Bryce’s funeral expenses and to assist the mother in finding long-term shelter.
In the last words of Winelle’s video, she said she has been asking for help for months.