Leslie Blanton

Losing her haunts and hurts me to this day, though it happened 30 years ago.

My singular, beautiful big sister. She was adventurous, tall, smart and funny. We were close. I looked up to her, and she relied on me. I don’t know the words that encapsulate what sisters have—the loving bond.

My son wants his Aunt Lauren; it’s painful and beautiful to hear him say it. He loves his sister, too, and can’t imagine losing her. And so I ask their friends’ parents: “Do you keep your guns locked up?” The first time I asked, I thought it would embarrass my kids, but they want to know.

Jessyca Sweeten

On the evening of July 23, 2019, I was driving home. Suddenly, there was a loud popping sound to my left, and the door window exploded into my face and eye. Thankfully, I was able to safely pull over and call 911.

The bullet struck the door, inches from my head. I was told I was lucky. I didn’t feel lucky.

To this day, I don’t know who fired that shot, or if it were an accident or intentional.

My story made the news, resulting in harassment from individuals claiming the event was a lie made to “push an anti-gun agenda.” Some harassers insisted that if I were carrying a gun myself, it never would have happened—as if carrying a gun while driving could prevent a stranger from shooting at my moving car.

I am still living with the physical and mental trauma, and I ended up quitting my job and moving to a different state shortly after the event. In the span of a few minutes, my life was changed forever. I hope that sharing my story can help spread awareness of the crisis our country is facing, so that no one has to experience the trauma of gun violence.


As I was reading in bed with my husband sound asleep next to me and my two children sleeping in the next room, I was startled to hear the 30 rounds go off outside our bedroom window. My husband and I automatically jumped out of bed and hit the floor for protection. I immediately started to run to where my children were sleeping, as gunfire continuously went off. The last round went through our bedroom window and lodged into the wall.

We were lucky that night to walk away with no physical wounds. However, gun violence doesn’t only leave physical wounds but mental and emotional wounds as well. And for my family and myself, those wounds are deep.

Charles W. Reid

On June 26, 2011, I lost my firstborn and only son, Charles Woodrow Reid, to gun violence. My son was very smart, loving and so much fun! Because love never dies, he is forever loved at age 24. Through prayer, therapy and faith (my power punch for change), I was able to overcome my grief and trauma.

As a licensed therapist, I work with others in the community by offering mental health resources and advocating to reduce gun violence. In my son’s honor, I founded the Charles W. Reid Community Help Center in Detroit to assist suffering from the impact of gun violence. We will never give up the fight to bring awareness and prevent gun violence!

Our Mission:
The CWR Community Help Center is committed to helping those in the community that have been impacted by gun violence and poverty.

Our Vision:
In honor of Charles W. Reid, our vision is to offer resources to those in the community suffering from the impact of gun violence and poverty so that they may gain hope and stability in moving forward.


I was 26 and working in youth development. Underfunded and undertrained. I had a student come to me and say, “Hey, something is up. I was jumped at school today.” We decided he was safe, after asking very directly if he felt safe at school. Safe at home. Safe in the community. He said he felt safe. He walked out the door, and 15 minutes later, he was shot. I was filled with grief, fear and relentless anger.

I went to work, worried about retaliation. We were all so afraid. I always knew where the exit sign was. I wanted to be strong for the kids. I kept them away from the windows. I thought about who I would have to jump in front of, when/if it happened. Another shooting. Protect the kids. Protect the kids. Soon enough, my body imploded from the fear: I herniated a disk in my back.

From this event, I developed PTSD and experienced homelessness. I lost my company. I lost my community. For a period of time, I lost my family.

More recently, things are turning around. I moved to a new city. A fresh start. Now at 32, I’m finally on the mend.


It was my birthday.

The morning of December 5, 2006, was the morning of my 26th birthday. It’s also a day that forever changed my life. Two weeks prior to that date, I had reconstructive surgery on my knee.

That morning I woke up to the sound of gunfire. The first burst of shots woke me up; I was not quite sure what was happening. The second burst, I realized that someone was shooting. I sat myself up, while my leg was still immobilized from surgery, and tried to get on the floor. Before I could get there, the third burst of shots came, and a round penetrated the wall behind me, striking me in the back. I blacked out shortly after.

When I awoke, I had no spleen, a collapsed lung, multiple tears to my intestines and a feeding tube.

Physically I have recovered as best as anyone could. Mentally, I will never fully recover. I suffer from PTSD, anxiety and depression as a result, and every year, as my birthday approaches, I am painfully reminded of the day I almost died.

Natalie Shippam

When I was a sophomore, there was a shooting at my high school. Two people died, and 13 were injured. It was almost 20 years ago, and it still haunts me, especially now that I’m a mother. I get flashbacks, I have anxiety and I fear for my kids’ safety because I know how real gun violence is. It can happen anywhere, anytime, here in the United States. I’m almost expecting it to happen again.

I jump at loud noises. Being a survivor also caused me immense feelings of guilt, and I’ve struggled with depression since. My faith used to comfort me through these feelings, and it was a great distraction for many years. Now I feel that it only repressed these feelings and told me that the shooting happened because of an absence of God’s influence at my school. I now understand that my feelings are valid and that there is more correlation with gun violence and gun availability than with the lack of prayer in schools.

Aunty Robs

In December 2018, my beautiful, kind and loving niece Emily was senselessly murdered by someone she’d met a few weeks prior, on a dating site. He should not have had a gun or been in the community. This was not his first crime.

I can’t find the words (because there are none) that could possibly describe how heartbroken I am. There’s a part of me that doesn’t know what to write because I don’t want to have to acknowledge that it’s actually real — that she is no longer with us. Another part can’t stop thinking about how much regret I have for not making more time for her when, now, it’s simply not possible…. I’ll forever regret the things I didn’t do when I had the chance.

One thing I won’t ever have regrets about is how hard we have worked and fought as a family to honor and demand justice for Emily. Something has to change, and we won’t stop until it does.

“Love your family. Spend time, be kind and serve one another. Make no room for regrets. Tomorrow is not promised, and today is short.”

I love and miss you more than words can tell, Ems.

Lauren Stumbo Burkum

On a sunny Friday in July 2006, I received a phone call that no one should. Through tears and crying, my then 14-year-old daughter strangled out “Mom, Cherie’s been shot.” The phone was handed off to one of my sister’s colleagues, who gave me more information. My sister had been shot in the arm. I called my Mom. Her daughter was at Harborview, and her granddaughter was with the police. It would not be until later that night, after driving five hours from home to my Mom’s, that I would find out that not only had my sister been shot — and in the stomach, not the arm — but that my daughter had been held at gunpoint in the entrance to the Jewish Federation.

The shooter robbed my daughter of her innocence, her teens (she does not remember ninth grade) and so much of her time. To this day, she spends so much of her week dealing with anxiety, chronic/traumatic pain and lots of self care. He robbed my sister of years of her life recovering. He robbed my time, too.

I fight gun violence now with Moms!


I used to live in Parkland, Florida. To be clear, I was not present at the time of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting; my classmates from elementary and middle school were. A handful of them were wounded, two of whom passed away. My best friend saw the carnage firsthand.

Hearing the news while I was in a different country made me feel helpless, but not shocked. I knew that school shootings were prevalent in America. I just didn’t think much about it until I was affected personally. Since then, I have moved back to the States, and my secondary PTSD has made it very difficult to sit inside an American-formatted classroom. Sometimes I have to skip classes to get through the day. Of the four countries I have lived in throughout the course of my life, only one of them makes me this afraid of being shot during school hours: the United States of America. School shootings are real, my friends aren’t crisis actors, and we are living with the trauma and grief every day of our lives. Through Everytown, I hope that we can heal and eventually use our voices to stop this from happening again.