VIDALIA, La. — "There's a difference between being mean and being a bully," Katie May of Vidalia feels after her unexpected confrontation with a Vidalia store owner Thursday afternoon.
May was selling raffle tickets around Vidalia to friends and local businesses for the Miss-Lou chapter of the American Society of Suicide Prevention "Out of the Darkness" Community Walk on October 6 at the Vidalia Riverfront. She has been selling the tickets since September 10 and been raising money through donations for the last six months.
Upon entering the Vidalia business, she asked the store's attendant if the business would like to purchase a raffle ticket. According to May, the attendant told her that he heard about the organization and event, and would ask the store's owner if he would purchase one.
The store owner, standing nearby within a short distance from May and the attendant, was asked about the tickets. The onwer replied loud enough in order for May to hear his response.
"I would help them pull the trigger," according to May was the owner's comment.
As soon as May heard the comment, she said to the owner, "I know someone who pulled the trigger." May said at that moment, she was brought to tears.
A close friend of May's died last December from a self-inflicted gunshot to their head in a suicide attempt. Her friend, 21 years old, died in the hospital days later.
"I've never lost anybody. When she died, I just fell to pieces," May said of the tragic loss of her friend. Her mission was to channel her pain and of her friend's into something positive.
May found out about a walk fundraiser for the Crisis Intervention Center in Baton Rouge last year, created a walking group in her friend's memory and walked the event. It is at that event where she was put in contact with Jan Lipscomb, the organizer for the Miss-Lou chapter for "Out of the Darnkess," and began her journey helping organize fund-raising efforts in the area.
May's experience with the Vidalia business owner made her realize that she will now work even more to bring awareness to end suicide.
"I wanted him to know that she (May's friend) did pull the trigger, and people like him put the voice inside her head in order to do it," May said.
After posting her experience at the Vidalia store on Facebook, May said people have begun to respond back to her and want to purchase tickets for the raffle. May also received response from the store's attendant, apologizing for the incident and said the owner didn't mean his comments, and it was said out of stress.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's website, www.asfp.org , in compiled statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, there were 490 suicides in Louisiana and 381 in Mississippi in 2009.
May goes to her friend's grave site once a month to take gifts and keep her friend's memory alive. She hopes her efforts with Miss-Lou's "Out of the Darkness" will make people rethink how people treat each other, and that words have power.
"You got to respect people more, because you never know what will push them to that level. You will never know what is really on that person's mind," May said.
To find out more about the Miss-Lou chapter of the American Society of Suicide Prevention, its "Out of the Darkness" Community Walk on October 6 at the Vidalia Riverfront and to purchase raffle tickets, visit the website at www.asfp.org  and type in the search field 'Vidalia' under the 'Events' tab, or go to their Facebook event link by clicking here .