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.