STATEN ISLAND, NY -- A 13-year-old from Staten Island who was deliberately set on fire by a classmate is speaking about the incident.
Deandre, who was in the hospital burn unit for a month, is now in eighth grade.
"(I'm) good," he said. "I like to ride bikes and play basketball."
His physical scars from being bullied and burned have healed, but emotional healing takes longer. His story made so many viewers cry or angry -- or both. According to authorities, a bully at school who used to hit him and make fun of the limp he's had since birth one day invited Bloomfield over as a friend. The suspect, also 13 at the time, allegedly sprayed a cologne on him and lit a match into the stream.
"He smacked me around," he said. "He threw something on me. I caught on fire, and that's when they were throwing water on me, left (me) for a good two hours. And that's when they called the cops."
Police told Bloomfield's mom that for two agonizing hours, the bully and an adult tried to cover it up, changing his clothes but waiting to call 911. Later, the bully was arrested, his family moved away, and no one's been seen since.
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Unlike his younger twin brothers, Deandre doesn't smile much these days. But his mother says he used to and was all spirit.
"He goes to therapy outside the school and inside the school," mom Ursula Allen said. "They say it's just going to take a little time."
Still, Deandre is a boy of few words. And the young man, who has trusted so many times only to be disappointed, says he is trying to be happier and to follow his dreams.
"I might be a lawyer or something," he said, perhaps with the hope of sticking up for kids like him.
Last year, we started the hashtag #HisNameIsDeandre, in the hopes that he would take some comfort in knowing that all of New York City was pulling for him.
"Thank you, all the New Yorkers," he said.
We reached out to wonderful organizations around our area, all the places with big hearts that can turn Deandre's expressions and outlook around. We got immediate help from Big Brothers Big Sisters and Born This Way, the anti-bullying foundation founded by Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia.
It has been a long way back for the 14-year-old, but he should know how much love and support is out there for him. This may be the worst case of bullying cruelty we have seen, but we also wanted to update everyone interested in helping him back.
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