Sara Grossman

My life has changed in a bevy of ways since losing my friend Christopher Andrew Leinonen at the Pulse shooting. Instead of folding inward, like a lot of our friends did, I pushed myself to turn my anguish into action and work hard to honor his memory. Some friends and I launched The Dru Project — a nonprofit dedicated to expanding gay-straight alliances in Florida. I started working at the Matthew Shepard Foundation, to fully immerse myself in protecting the country’s most vulnerable people from hate. And, of course, I became a fellow for Everytown.

While this work has been eye-opening and healing in so many ways, sitting in the trenches of secondhand trauma day in and day out has taken a toll on my mental health. I am finally taking a step back to try to work through some of my own pain from Pulse. While I don’t like calling myself a survivor because I have friends who literally survived the shooting, I know the ripple effect that is launched from shootings like Pulse. People are affected each and every day in ways that they sometimes don’t even realize. We are turning into a nation of secondhand pain because pretty soon, everyone will know someone who was shot. I only hope my story helps people find relief in the fact that they aren’t alone and motivates them to become involved.

Claire M.

When I was eight years old, I learned my very best friend was shot when a gun being cleaned in the room next to hers accidentally discharged a bullet left in the chamber that went through the wall and struck her in the chest, killing her instantly.

To this day, I can feel the empty feeling I had of never seeing her again, as if it were yesterday.

That was 58 years ago.

Vicki Powers

My childhood friend, Mitzi, along with the youngest of her five daughters, her husband, and her mother-in-law and father-in-law, were murdered with shotguns during a random vehicle robbery. Many years later, I still feel the horror and weight of that loss every time I visit my parents and my old neighborhood. Since the day they were killed, I’ve known that no one in America is safe from senseless gun violence. These were good, hard-working people who didn’t deserve such a terrible end. In my picture, Mitzi and I are talking at a high school reunion. She is surrounded by her four daughters and is pregnant with her fifth, who was killed with her about 15 years later.