To date, “Jeremy” remains one of Pearl Jam’s most chilling and affecting songs. Based on the real-life suicide of high school student Jeremy Wade Delle, who shot himself in front of his classmates in January 1991, the band’s hit single has since haunted radio waves, concert halls, and living rooms. Now, nearly 30 years later, both Delle’s mother, Wanda Crane, and his former classmate, Brittany King, have commented on the incident.
“That day that he died did not define his life,” Crane tells ABC WFAA. “He was a son, a brother, a nephew, a cousin, a grandson. He was a friend. He was talented.” She later reflects on first hearing the news of her son’s death. “I was in my office at work,” she remembers. “I didn’t believe it. I was in shock. Not my son. I was going to pick him up that afternoon at school.”
Much like the song depicts him, Jeremy was a budding artist prior to his death. “He won first prize at the Texas State Fair,” Crane says of her son. “He won best of shows, and this was all before he was 12 years old.” As WFAA points out, Crane still has the paintings hanging up around her home, one them an elephant drawing that won her son an award at age seven.
King, however, was present in the classroom at the time of the shooting. “Shock and fear went into my mind,” she remembers. “All the students kinda ran into the back of the room and huddled.” At the time, King was only 16 years old: “This was a big wakeup call. Like, you know what? Life is not all hunky-dory all the time. Real things, tragedies happen. It made me grow up pretty quick, literally overnight.”
When pressed about Pearl Jam’s homage, King is not exactly a fan, as she says: “I was angry at them for writing that song. I thought, You don’t know. You weren’t there. That story isn’t accurate.”
Crane did not comment on the song, but has since used the experience to help connect and inspire others who are similarly grieving. Twelve years ago, she started leading a support group at her church, which she continues to work with today.
On the topic of today’s ensuing school shootings and tragedies, Crane says, “I think of the sisters. I think of what’ll be said or what opinions will be thought about … It’s the mothers and the sisters that I want to wrap my arms around and tell them that someday it’ll be better.”
Here’s hoping. Below, watch the interviews with both Crane and King. Revisit the original video shortly after, which was directed by Mark Pellington and won several awards at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards, including Video of the Year.