Rose Mallinger, Tree of Life Synagogue

On October 27, 2018, while canvassing in Arizona for gun sense candidates for the upcoming general election, I received a call from my son in Pittsburgh. There was a mass shooting in progress there, at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and his great Aunt Rosie and cousin Andrea were inside. It wasn’t until later in the evening that we learned that Rosie and 10 other worshipers were killed and Andrea wounded. My children’s spry 97-year-old aunt was murdered, and their cousin wounded, in what was now the deadliest attack on a Jewish community in America.

Rose Mallinger, a mother of three, a grandmother and great-grandmother, was now dead—simply because she was practicing her faith in our country, where the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. This was just another senseless act of gun violence fueled by hatred, not unlike the all-too-often massacres of school children, in the LBGTQ community, and in communities of different races, colors and religions.

Brandon

My son, Brandon D. Williams, left home one evening on June 23, 2019. He was murdered in a mass shooting outside Kelly’s Pub in South Bend, Indiana, while hosting a birthday party. Eleven people were shot that night; my son took the fatal shot to the head.

People ask me how I felt about my child being the only one who did not survive. The Lord spoke to me and said, “If it wasn’t your child, then which person should it have been?” I never questioned it again because I would not want anyone to wear these shoes that I’m now walking in.

I didn’t see Brandon again after that night, until the day before his funeral. I was not allowed to go into the hospital (ER) for hours due to the number of victims from the shootings. I couldn’t hold him or touch him to tell him I love him or just say goodbye.

I will never see my son on this Earth again. Yet I have hope that one day we will be together again.

Clint Bump

I have had a gun pointed at me when I was homeless, on the streets, but what really hurts me the most is losing two good friends in the Orlando nightclub shooting. They both were lovers, and I will never forget the first day we met. I was living in Orlando. I was a shy person, and we started talking and we clicked. The anniversary is next week: Four years. I miss him so much. I don’t want to lose any more friends, and i will not give up on this fight. Too many people and kids have died.

Ivy Schamis

Valentine’s Day should be a day of love and laughter, and that is exactly what it was at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018. Until almost dismissal time, that is, when a former student got onto campus with an AR-15 and ambushed the 1200 building, where I was teaching a History of the Holocaust class.

It would be six minutes of sheer terror as he blasted his way into our hallways and into our classroom. As we heard those first shots in the hallway, we all ran for cover in room 1214, where there was no place to hide. Within seconds, shots were flying through the elongated glass window in the door of our classroom, randomly hitting anything that got in the way.

Sweet Helena, who traveled with me on a trip to Europe over a past spring break — who believed hate could one day be eradicated — was brutally murdered. And, Nick, our amazing athlete, who earned a scholarship to swim at the University of Indianapolis the following fall, was also murdered. They are with us every single day and will never be forgotten.

Khara

I was involved in the Route 91 Harvest Festival mass shooting in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017. Surprisingly, this was the worst and best day of my life. Although I never wish anyone to experience a helpless life-or-death situation, it was life-changing for me.

For months after the shooting, I was in denial and felt as if I were dead but still somehow living on Earth. It is an indescribable feeling. About six months after the shooting, I realized the positive effect it has had on my life. I figured out the career path I want to go down, and it drew me closer to God. I still live my days alert after hearing loud “gun-like” noises and have random flashbacks about that day, but now I understand why I was put through that situation.

I now want to be an advocate and voice for others who have experienced situations similar to mine. I want them to know there is a reason. How you handle it is your choice.

Lena Duda

On Valentine’s Day 2008 (10 years before Parkland) at 3:06 p.m., a gunman came into the Cole Hall lecture hall at Northern Illinois University and started shooting. The shooting lasted less than a minute, but in that time he killed five people and injured 22 others. He killed himself before the cops could get him. Had it been 10 minutes earlier, I would’ve been right outside that building cutting through to go to work.

I can remember the frantic voicemail my roommate left me, then calling her back and immediately calling my mom to tell her I was fine. I can remember the chaos of not being able to use my phone because lines were jammed for five hours afterwards, while the rumors about more gunmen ran rampant. I can remember the emptiness and stillness of campus the day after, as if God froze it all in bitter winds and ice. I can remember the shock and pain of realizing a classmate was killed, the anger at what happened, the feeling of being violated, the need to fight back but not knowing against what, and the feeling that the depression will never go away… It’s with me always. #ForwardTogetherForward

Joanne Wallace

I heard the Code Red; I hid under a table with my students in the principal’s conference room. I texted my husband to get our son, and “I Love You,” which was code for goodbye. I survived, but too many did not. Now I fight for changes; now I attend rallies. I meet with politicians, I email, call, post and tweet. I cry. I pray. I pray that we can fix it. I keep going. Don’t forget MSD. Don’t forget Parkland. Keep going.

Anonymous

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.

Isabella

My life changed the moment bullets started raining down on us on the third and final night of the Route 91 country festival. I was severely wounded that night, and I’m still struggling psychologically. At the time I was still very young, only 16 years of age. Coming to terms with what happened was and still is very difficult for me to do.

Cheryl

Twenty years ago, a narcissist with an AK-47 murdered seven employees at Edgewater Corporation in Massachusetts. They were mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, friends. One was my sister.

Like a spoiled child, he had a tantrum with loaded guns. He was arrogant with a grandiose sense of entitlement, and his guns made him feel important. His game was to show everyone just how important he was.

My sister was my best friend. She was funny and loved playing practical jokes. She cherished animals, my children, and her little car that she drove way too fast. She worked her way through night school and worked her way up to vice president. She couldn’t resist jelly donuts or fried clams. She spent hours in my garden, reading. She was kind, accomplished, appreciative and well-liked – traits her killer could only envy.

I mention her killer only because he epitomizes our country’s worst illness – a belief that violence solves all and that infamy, no matter how ill-obtained, marks our lives. To the weak-minded, guns mean power. Their faces on the news? Notoriety.

Mass murders have increased exponentially, but we, the majority, will end this epidemic.

Sensible gun laws matter.