Joshua Friedlein

This picture is of my wife and me on our wedding day. We were married on a blazing hot August day in 2016, on the campus of Umpqua Community College in southwest Oregon. It was the best day of my life.

But just 323 days earlier, on October 1, 2015, we survived a mass shooting, together and alone. Separated by classrooms across that same campus that we were married on, we were each in lockdown while a gunman murdered eight students and a professor. I vividly remember the 15 minutes that passed between going into lockdown and finding out that she was alive. I remember knowing that I would give anything in the world to see her smile one more time. And I remember being unable to stop shaking when I heard her voice on the phone at the end of those 15 minutes.

I asked her to marry me 11 weeks later.

We graduated together the following June and were married two months later on the same campus where we had nearly lost each other. We made a conscious choice to have our wedding there, in our best effort to redeem the place that had given and taken nearly everything.

She was the best decision I have ever made. Our love survived the worst thing we could imagine. Little did I know her love would save my life.

On October 1, 2017, two years to the day after the shooting we survived, another mass shooting shook America. It broke me down and brought the memories and the trauma flooding back. I sank into a deep depression. By December, I was too low to see any hope and began to consider taking my own life. Thankfully, my wife recognized the signs and took me to seek help, preventing another tragedy.

I have survived the worst thing anyone could do to me.
I have survived the worst that I could do to myself.
I am a survivor. I am motivated. I am a fighter. I will do my part to end gun violence.

Jessi Fuchs

One night about nine years ago, after getting off work, I parked in a downtown parking lot. I was so excited because I was going to see my best friend that was in town, visiting at one of our favorite local spots. It was dark, but there were streetlights and a few other people around. As I walked down the breezeway, I saw a guy walking in my direction. As he was about to pass me, he stopped. He put his left arm around my shoulder and with his right hand he shoved a gun into my side. He told me to walk and not to scream. Terrified, I complied. My mind was racing, thinking of what he wanted and what I could do to protect myself. Miraculously, I stayed calm and began to talk to him. I did my best to make him see me as a human, not a target. But still we walked. Within only a matter of minutes, I found myself in a dark corner with this man pointing a gun at me telling me to take off my clothes. I had to decide if I would rather be raped or risk being shot. To make a horrifying and long story short, with some more persuasion and some bribery, I was able to get away without physical harm.

As I write this story, I remember that those minutes felt like they lasted years — and in a way, they did. They lasted years because today I am still affected by those minutes. I still feel fear when walking alone, even during daylight. I still feel rage, then sometimes helplessness. I worry that if this culture of gun violence and sexual violence doesn’t change, that my daughter could one day have a story similar to mine or worse. That thought makes me physically sick. I do my best to channel these negative feelings into action by volunteering with Moms Demand Action. I refuse to do nothing because I know that together we can break the pattern and protect our loved ones and ourselves.

Linell

My husband and I bought our first house in D.C., on Capitol Hill, in what we didn’t know at the time was front and center in an area dominated by an organized and dangerous drug gang. The year was 1990. We are both veterans of the Army, but our first experience of gun violence nevertheless shook us to the core. It was a gun fight across the street from our home.

My husband who was outside, watering the front plantings, hit the ground. I looked out the window, seeing him on the ground, and immediately prayed he was there due to his training. He was. A few years later, I was returning home late in the evening when a young man jumped out of the shadows close to our house and stuck a gun in my face. Agitated and yelling, he demanded that I and a friend with me kneel and that we give him our valuables, jewelry, money, etc. My friend tried to talk him out of what he was doing. He was very agitated and excited, and I thought for sure he would shoot us as my friend continued to tell him he did not want to do this. But he did not. He robbed us and ran. I can still see his face.

A month or so later, I saw him outside a corner store in the neighborhood and called the police. They wanted me to come with them to identify him. I would not because it was clear he was in a gang, and I feared retribution.

Michele Norton

My name is Michele, and I am a survivor of gun violence.

On the afternoon of October 25, 1995, in Seattle, Washington, I was held at gunpoint during a violent “take over” robbery at the bank where I was employed as the assistant branch manager.

The assailant, referred to as “Hollywood,” is documented by the FBI as one of the most prolific bank robbers in the history of America.

On a rainy fall day, Hollywood walked into the bank and proceeded directly towards me with his gun extended. I was unknowingly being cast as his “co-star” for this heinous production.

My life and the life of four others in the bank were spared that day, but I was forever changed, due to the long-lasting effects of PTSD.

I’m one of many survivors using our voices in the fight for sensible gun laws. It’s important to listen to survivors share their stories, so we can learn from one another as to why and how to effectively advocate for sensible change to end gun violence in America.

Caia

October 23, 2015, the day my life changed forever. I was at a friend’s house, and we were just sitting down to watch a movie when we heard banging on the front door. Then the banging stopped, but only for a moment. Then the banging started again but this time from the back door.

At that point my friend went downstairs to see who it was. Then I heard three loud bangs. I didn’t know what was happening. Then I heard footsteps coming up the stairs. He walked in the room, pointed the .45 caliber black handgun at me and didn’t say a word.

I remember shaking my head no right before he fired. He looked me in the eyes and shot me in the face, taking my eye as the bullet traveled through my head and out the back of my neck.

After he shot me I pretended to be dead; I didn’t dare breathe or move until he left the room. When I knew that he was gone, I tried to call 911 ,but they couldn’t help me. When I realized that no one was going to help me, I did the only thing I knew and I helped myself.

I got up off the floor, wrapped a towel around my head, opened the window and climbed out. I then lowered myself and jumped from the second story, landing in a bush. But then I saw the man who had shot me running out of the back of the house to his truck. I froze and hid in the bushes until he was gone.

After he drove away, I ran into the street and tried to flag down a car for help. Finally, someone stopped.

The man who shot me went straight home to his parents’ house, where they let him take a shower. He then admitted to his parents what he had done, and they told him to leave. They didn’t call the police. After a 15-hour manhunt and a high-speed chase, he was finally apprehended.
Both my friend and I survived.

Roxy

December 15, 2001, was the day that my life changed. I was 18 years old and looking forward to my 19th birthday coming up the following month. It was a cold winter night in West Philly, and I was with a couple of high school friends. It was the three of us in the car a little past 1 a.m. We pulled up to a stop sign and saw another car sitting at the opposite stop sign, and we drove past. I looked at the car, and the headlights were out. I looked out the back window and saw something big, bright and silver coming from the driver’s window; before my brain could fully comprehend what was going on, my body immediately begun to react, and all I could do was duck down.

Gunfire then rung out; it felt like eternity. I just knew at that moment that it was the end. I could smell the smoke as he continued to fire into our car. Suddenly, the gunfire stopped and he sped off. We were screaming for him to drive away. We somehow ended up back at the church. We ran into the church screaming about what happened, and my friend who drove collapsed on the ground. I remember the police leading me out of the church as I was weeping. They told us that the gunman shot 16 rounds at us with a really powerful gun and that we were lucky.

I am now a 36-year-old woman that still suffers from this night. I have a hard time driving still, especially at night. I suffer from PTSD and anxiety; it’s hard for me to even walk outside sometimes. This has altered my life in more ways than I have ever imagined. The MIRACULOUS news is that the three of us in that car SURVIVED, but the emotional wounds are still there. December 15, 2001 is the day that I will remember for the rest of my life. A day that I got another chance.