Parents say bullying pushed Christian Helms to the edge
"Boys spit in his face," described Traci Helms when explaining the extent to her son's bullying. Events like that pushed her son to the edge, she said.
On September 21st 2010, a community stood still, waiting to know the extent of the violence that transpired inside Socastee High School.
On that day, Christian Helms, a Socastee High freshman brought a gun and weapons to the school with a plan.
A plan that ended before it started because the school's resource officer wrestled the 14-year-old's gun away after the teen fired a shot that narrowly missed the officer.
Every Socastee High student and parent remembers that day and the fear is forever etched in their minds.
But for one mom and dad, the fear went much further.
"My exact words were, 'What's up with these damn kids these days? Why they got to bring guns to school?' not knowing that it was my child," said Jamie Helms.
"The only thing at that point that had crossed my mind is that he'd taking the gun to school and committed suicide," said Christian's mother Traci Helms.
The Helms still live with the consequences of their son's actions.
Every weekend, Jamie and Traci visit Christian at the Department of Juvenile Justice in Columbia.
"That's the day that my child was ripped out of my hands, and it was because of him that happened," said Traci about her son.
For the two parents, September 21st, 2010, isn't the hardest day to look back on. Their toughest days are the ones Christian spent getting belittled and bullied by others.
"In elementary school, it started with the name calling, calling him a leprechaun, asking where his pot of gold was, making fun of his red hair or because his voice squeaked," said Traci. "General picking on, still a form of bullying, but not nearly what he went through in middle school. Middle school is where the problem was.
That transition into middle school is something that Christian wrote about in his journal.
He highlighted the changes, but one thing for christian didn't change. The bullying stood.
"These boys continuously hit him, threw things at him, stuck gum and suckers in his hair," said Traci. "Do the world a favor and go kill yourself."
Traci and Jamie reported it to the schools.
But then the reports of bullying from Christian suddenly stopped and they thought everything was okay, even though it was not.
"The kids just got smarter. They just hit him where we couldn't see, on the back, on the arm, in the chest, in the stomach," said Traci. "After that he never told us a word, everything is ok. Everything is fine."
The bullying continued at school, and at a place he was suppose to feel the safest, his home.
"It was God awful the way I spoke to him. If he didn't feel safe at school, then when he would come home he didn't feel safe at home," said Jamie. "I failed as a father...I feel as if I'm just as guilty as the bullies."
The young man who had run away from his enemies for so long started to find himself in a fight with a new enemy, the one inside himself.
The journals he wrote to record the accounts of bullying turned into fantasies of how he would push back.
"No matter how well you know your child, they can always surprise you," said Traci.
Those years of bullying and torture came to a head.
"It's 5:42, and I just stole the revolver," said Christian in his goodbye video. "This is what you've got, a high school shooter."
The severely troubled young man who carried years of torment wanted revenge.
Revenge that was halted by the act of school resource officer Erik Karney.
"I think about officer Karney everyday," said Traci. "He saved Christian."
"Christian's got a good heart. His mind was in the wrong place," said Jamie.
His good heart turned cold, and that's why Jamie and Traci are speaking out against bullying.
"Kids can hide emotional things from you," said Traci. "Kids can hide feelings of despair feelings of suicide.
They want others to join them.
"There needs to be action," said Jamie. "Us as adults we need to start acting like adults. We can speak about it all were going to do, but it ain't nothing unless we do it."
"Kids get taught in elementary school, don't be a tattle tale. It gets so engrained sometimes that kids don't realize that what they see is something that someone else is laughing about or is other things would maybe make them angry could be very emotionally disturbing for others," said Traci.
They also want schools to learn the importance of taking reports of bullying seriously.
"It does stop with the parents," said Jamie. "But six to seven hours out of the day the school has your child."
But the couple said they are not passing blame. They save the finger pointing for themselves.
"I'm not blaming the school. I'm saying that the bullying caused Christian's mental issues and his illness," said Traci. "I'm saying that caused his writings. But I do not take the blame off anybody or push the blame on anybody except Christian for what he did in officer Karney's office."
They want other parents to see the signs before they find themselves in their position.
"Any advice that I could give to a father, break down these tough walls as a dad and just tell your child that you love them," said Jamie. "Now, I know that it means a lot."
"Becoming very withdrawn. Wanting to stay in your room. Making very derogatory comments about themselves. A change if they've been a pretty happy child," said Traci when explaining the signs she missed.
The parents who have trouble forgetting want everyone to remember. Remember their son who took a community hostage who is now paying for the bullying that took over his life.
"There's not any light at the end of the tunnel for this, but if we can all make improvements, then that's what we are going to strive for," said Traci.
They said their son is starting to let go of the hate and agreed to let his family to talk to us because he doesn't wanted other kids to go through what he did.
Horry County Schools Superintendent Dr. Cindy Ellsberry said since Christian's shooting, bullying is something the district has focused on much more than before.
The district along with Horry County police have started a bullying hotline where anyone can anonymously tip off authorities.
Helms pleaded guilty to attempted murder, and in August 2011. A judge sentenced him to six years with four years probation.