Halloween display triggers painful memories for parents of teen who died by suicide

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A Halloween display of a mannequin hanging from a noose is causing division in Philadelphia's Fishtown neighborhood.

"Off-putting to us, so I proceeded over to talk to the neighbors to ask them to consider removing that based on the traumatic events that my family and I have been through," said Anthony Cassetta of Fishtown.

Cassetta lives along Memphis Street where the decoration was put up. When he saw it, he says he went through a flood of emotions. For him, it was no ordinary Halloween arrangement, but he says it brought back memories of his teenage son who died last year by suicide.

"Our family has been through losing our son last year and to see that sort of figure across the street was bringing us back to those memories," said Cassetta.

Cassetta says his neighbor refused to take it down even after he explained how painful seeing the display was. Instead, he says he got a hate-filled note from his neighbor. It started off by offering condolences about the death of Cassetta's teenaged son, but he says it quickly changed to racist and hurtful speech. One section of the note says, "Suicide is beyond selfish and your child's selfishness is still attempting to affect others. It stops here."

"It is their property and they do have that right, but just because you can doesn't mean you should," said Cassetta.

Action News was not able to reach the neighbor who put up the display but it has been taken down. In a show of solidarity, about 100 residents gathered Wednesday night to show their support for the Cassetta family.

"And I think now is a great time to sort of bring people together to remind ourselves about community," said event organizer Omar Zaater.

"The true soul of this community in Fishtown is standing together, fighting hate with love," said resident Emily Resnick.

Cassetta hopes what happened on his street is a reminder of why it's important to show a little brotherly love.

"You have an obligation to your neighbors to be kind and to be compassionate and understand that what you do affects others and take that into consideration," said Cassetta.

Action News did reach out to police about the incident and they said they had no reports of the situation.

September is Suicide Prevention Month. If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
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