A funeral home in Long Island was been swarmed over the weekend, as hundreds of people gathered to mourn travel influencer Gabby Petito at a public funeral held by her parents. Friends, family, first responders, and complete strangers who have been impacted by the 22-year-old’s death packed out the small space, and listened to her father, Joseph Petito, give a heart-wrenching eulogy.
The space was covered in photographs of Gabby – many from her travelling adventures – and her dad asked everyone to look at the photos and be inspired by his daughter’s short life.
“If there’s a trip you guys want to take, take it now,” he said.
“Do it now while you have the time.”
Joseph also touched on unhealthy relationships in his eulogy, wanting people to learn from the revelations of his daughter’s experience with Brian Laundrie.
“If there is a relationship that you’re in that might not be the best thing for you,” he continued, “leave it now.”
Gabby’s step-father, Jim Schmidt, also spoke at the service, saying that not even his career as a firefighter could have prepared him to give a eulogy at his child’s funeral.
“Gabby, at 22 years old, helped teach me that you can always make money, but you can’t make up for lost time,” he said.
“She is an example for all of us to live by, to enjoy every moment in this beautiful world as she did. To love and give love to all like she did.”
On the day of her funeral, her family also announced the future Gabby Petito Foundation in response to the overwhelming amount of people wanting to help. Though the full mission statement of the foundation is yet to be determined, Joseph said they want to use it to help young people in situations like Gabby’s to return home safely.
The Gabby Petito Foundation. No one should have to find their child on their own. We are creating this foundation to give resources and guidance on bringing their children home. We are looking to help people in similar situations as Gabby. #gabbypetito https://t.co/oaX4BsPcYj pic.twitter.com/I9tz5q6Hcc
— joseph petito (@josephpetito) September 25, 2021
Due to Gabby’s status as an influencer, her disappearance turned into a real-time true crime hunt in lightning speed, sending online sleuths into overdrive as they chased theories and potential sightings, and found vital clues. The sudden viral status of Gabby’s case has resulted in criticism of platforms like TikTok due to the belief that some people have been jumping on crowd-solving hashtags in a way that is less helpful than intended.
Internet sleuthing can be a force for good, trust me, I do it professionally. However, there's a HUGE difference between posting every little detail—without being able to verify—and working on an investigation, a short thread ????
— Jordan Wildon (@JordanWildon) September 21, 2021
Critics have accused pocket of the online obsession with Gabby’s case as capitalising on and exploiting content regarding her movements before her death, as well as detracting from other missing persons cases – especially those within marginalised, non-white communities.
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