Lisette Johnson

I narrowly survived being shot by my husband. I survived his suicide. Our children survived as witnesses. I survived my trauma and navigating my children through their trauma and grief journeys. I survived burying the beliefs of who I trusted him to be as I faced the undeniable truths of who he was, a controlling man who believed he had the right to use the guns he kept for our “protection” to murder me.

I cannot say that survival is any more than a day-to-day proposition. There is no mastery over trauma and PTSD after violence, no arrival at the day when it is left squarely behind.
Even within my hopefulness and optimism, a darkness lies, and only a sound, an event, a stress, fatigue, open the door for it to emerge. I suspect anyone who has survived violence experiences the same, it’s just not something we talk openly about. Perhaps in our minds to acknowledge it gives it too much space to expand; perhaps we want to pretend it isn’t there and we can be who we were before. But I’m not the person I was before. She is gone, and the aftermath of gun violence, with its physical, emotional and financial reminders, are what I am left to re-create her with.

Marilyn Balcerak

My name is Marilyn and I have lost two children to gun violence. My youngest son, James, had mental health issues his entire life and was just not able to fit into our world. He lost that battle when he was 23 by taking the life of my stepdaughter Brianna and then himself with a legally purchased gun.

Because of his ability to purchase a gun, life will never be the same.

Holidays no longer have the joy they once did. My partner and I greet them with mixed emotions, not really knowing how we are going to feel, thus often spending them alone. It really throws me when there is a shooting, as it brings back all the memories of that day. I feel for the victims and the shooter, as they are all lives lost. I know what everyone is feeling, as I have the experience of both. I love my son, yet know he took a life of another. Even within our close family, members have reacted in different ways, bringing some closer and others apart. It is always the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about, all because of a gun.

Jessica Curran-Lamoureux

I think the biggest thing that has changed is that feeling that everything will be OK, and that bad things don’t happen to my family or people I know. Because now we know they do. My sense of safety and trust in the world has been upended. Heartbreak happens, and traumatic and anguishing calls do come in the middle of the night. At the same time, my sense of the shortness and the value of life has been gifted to me. The gift given by those loved ones who go before us is the reminder that life is short. Be happy. Love one another. Help each other up. Make a difference. You only have one life, so really live it.

Brenda K Mitchell

I sent my son, Kevin, to his third tour of duty in Afghanistan to fight for Iraqi Freedom, only to lose my other son, Kenneth D. Mitchell, Jr., a week later in a free country. My life changed and became something I had never known before.

I kept trying to find my new norm and had to keep backtracking because I could not attain it.
Kenneth being the center of our family was the one who always brought everyone together with a barbecue, always at my house.

That has changed. The memory can be too much at times for others to embrace without the pain of knowing what is not present in our day. His sons, who were 8 and 6, and one born 30 days after his death, long for what they had — he was the custodial parent. They wish their dad who put them in football could give them a that-a-boy at the end of the game. Someone to be proud, like the other fathers, or just simply the dad they could cry on his shoulder. That will no longer be realized for them, their trying moments are their own. They are now 19, 21 and 13.
However, they know that family is everything. Tyler, John, and Mykhi. I submit this on behalf of my son’s sons. What they wear on the wristbands when they play football, “We do it for you Dad.”

Miss You, Love You,
Tyler, John, and Mykhi

Tiffany Tootle

My life changed on January 20, 2016 due to gun violence. That’s the night my son Tyquise Timmons was murdered.

I used to be a happy-going person, now I don’t know what that word means. My life now feels like a giant black hole; everything in my life is suffering. My health is bad; I suffer now with depression and anxiety. It’s just a life now of medication, trying to deal with the night and daymares, re-living that night over and over, knowing he was hit seven times, and once to the head, just a block and a half from home. I cry just about everyday. I really know now why its called a broken heart. Because I literally felt my heart break that night … just thinking about it hurts.

Deborah Parker

On December 3, 2006, my life was changed forever when my 19-year-old daughter, Lindsay, was murdered with a firearm. I have always been joyful and excited during the holiday season. I could hardly wait to decorate and put up a tree. That year, I even decorated before the usual post-Thanksgiving date. I’m joyful on the outside for my other children and grandchild, but I struggle to even leave my bed that time of year. This year, which is 12 years later, I managed to put up the tree. Literally that’s all I could do. The boxes of decorations sat on the floor waiting for their annual freedom, but I’d just walk past them — not even caring. I used to enjoy touching each special ornament, remembering which of my children made it or bought it throughout the years. Now, the process has become painful. Was this before or after Lindsay was murdered? Did she make it with her small hands at school? Did we make it together during a craft night at home, when our family was whole? The tree still sits on the table, undecorated and empty — just like my heart.

Stephanie Stone

Six years ago, on December 19, 2012, my 14-year-old son Paul was shot and killed. That morning, Paul and I followed our usual routine: We both got up around 5:30 a.m., I prepared him breakfast and then drove him to school. It was the last day before winter break, and school would be let out early. When we got to the school, Paul hopped out of the car, and we said our goodbyes.

That was the last time I saw my child alive. Because later that afternoon, a teenager from Paul’s school — with the help of his uncle and his uncle’s friend — bound, gagged and shot my child after robbing our home.

Paul was a great kid: He was the catcher for his baseball team and played football. He had an infectious personality and smile; he had big dreams for the future. At 14, he’d already decided he wanted to study Marine Biology at Florida State University! His friends still keep in touch with me, and we speak frequently. Each year on the anniversary of Paul’s death, I get together with his friends, and we celebrate his life. We try not to focus on the ugliness of his death. And while every day is difficult without Paul, I have two nephews named after him; so his name and legacy lives on. He also lives on through me and through the work that I am doing to end senseless gun violence in his honor. What keeps me going is knowing that the work I’m doing each day with Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety is changing lives and saving lives.

Valerie Burgest

On December 28, 2013, my son became something I had hoped he would never become – a statistic. On this day, my son, Craig Williams, was shot and killed by a still unknown assailant(s). Craig was my only son and my only child. He left behind to mourn not only me, but two children who were 11 months and 19 months, in addition to scores of other family. My life has changed profoundly since his murder. I can no longer go to the neighborhood where he was killed. His children will only know about him through stories of those who loved him.

Sometimes, the pain from the loss is unbearable, but I keep it moving. You see, I lost my child – my only child. There are so many places we used to go to together. Simple activities like going clothes shopping, playing games, going bowling. Birthday celebrations. My house full of his friends, filled with joy and laughter. All of these things and more are profoundly different today. I look back and it’s like a slideshow of his life, but these are the Moments/Memories That Survive. Nothing will ever be the same, and it is hard to find simple joy in so many daily activities. I became an Everytown Survivor Fellow, which has allowed me to raise Craig’s voice. Everytown has given me a platform so that others will get to know me and, through my voice, get to know Craig. I fight each and everyday so that another parent does not have to experience the devastation that comes from losing a child. I fight but in the words of Robert Frost, “I have miles to go before I sleep.”

Shenee Johnson

Since my son’s murder, our lives were completely altered. I remember taking Kedrick’s little brother to the emergency room for an injury he received during karate class. When the doctor asked me how many children did I have, Kedrick’s little brother and I looked at each other and paused for a very long time. I didn’t know what to say. I mean, I gave birth to four sons, but one child was murdered by gun violence. I was thinking to myself, what do I say? If I say four children, would the ER doctor’s next question be, “What are their ages?” If I say three children, would that erase the memory of my son Kedrick? I was at a loss for words, and that moment was painful for both me and my surviving child. The constant reminder that we will never have Kedrick back, my son and his brother. The scars and pain of gun violence that people don’t see.