They wear the names of the young men killed by hazing on their wrists. A physical reminder of what they lost.
Tim Piazza. Andrew Coffee. Dalton Deibricht. Max Gruver. Nolan Birch.
It’s hard for them. It’s only been a little more than a year, but they say it’s urgent that kids understand this isn’t a joke and it isn’t funny. That hazing kills people.
Evelyn Piazza and Rae Ann Gruver smile talking about the sons they lost.
Tim Piazza was killed at Penn State University in February of 2017.
“He was a big guy. He just wanted to protect people and just make everyone smile,” Piazza described. “I just miss him so much. In so many ways.”
Max Gruver was killed at LSU in September of 2017. He grew up in Roswell.
“A big nice funny kid. Big smile, big hugs,” Gruver described.
But when they talk to students about hazing, it’s serious.
“It’s wrong, and it kills people,” Gruver stated simply.
She and Piazza are both direct and unflinching in their description of the hazing that killed their boys. They call it murder.
“This is what can happen. This is the devastation that can happen,” Piazza said. “Nobody intends to kill someone when they haze but things can get out of hand so quickly, then you panic and you make bad decisions.”
Whether it’s drinking or paddling or making someone doing planks on bottle caps, Piazza said none of it is funny and none of it is OK.
“It’s not acceptable anywhere, why is it acceptable at a fraternity,” she asked.
“Causing someone to harm themselves, or embarrass them, or demoralize them – that’s not bonding, that’s not a brotherhood,” Gruver added.
Piazza and Gruver are traveling the country now, sitting in auditoriums and classrooms with students, telling them the brutal truth of what happens when hazing goes too far. Monday night, they were at Kennesaw State University.
“It comes from the pain, because I need to spill the pain out on other people, so we can see what we are going through and what happens,” Piazza explained.
Gruver said she understands the feeling of wanting to belong to a group on campus, “but that shouldn’t kill you,” she said.
When asked whether it gets harder to retell her son’s story, Gruver said it’s “absolutely worth it” to tell Max’s story over and over again. Both she and Piazza vowed they won’t stop sharing the stories as long as hazing exists on college campuses… even if it hurts.
“It’s because I love him so much, and I miss him so much, and I don’t want anybody to go through this. Nobody should go through this,” Piazza concluded.
Gruver added that it’s up to students to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves to break the deadly hazing trend.
“Don’t be a bystander, you gotta stand up for each other,” she said. “You really do.”
© 2018 WXIA