Auntie Rob’s

Survivors of gun violence intimately know that sharing one’s personal experience is a hard but necessary part of healing from trauma. I know this personally after losing my niece. She was senselessly murdered by someone she met two weeks prior on a dating site, who should not have had a gun or been on the streets.

I still find it hard to believe and am not so sure I can agree when people tell me that it “gets easier” or that “time heals all wounds or that “everything happens for a reason.” The pain and heartache that each one of my family members has had to—and still has to— endure continues to take my breath away. This horrible, tragic nightmare continues to be and will always be my family’s reality.

Fifty-eight percent of American adults or someone they care for have experienced gun violence in their lifetime. It could be any of us!

I will never stop fighting for you … I will continue to be your voice! I am absolutely heartbroken and filled with so many tears … this is so unfair!

Auntie Rob’s loves and misses you, Em’s.

Jeanne Kollmeyer

When I was six years old, my maternal grandfather was shot and killed in a robbery in his small grocery store in St. Louis. What I remember about this sad incident was finding my mom crying in her bedroom and wondering what was wrong. I later learned about my grandfather’s death from my mother.

What makes the story even sadder is that my mom was estranged from her parents because she married my dad, who was Catholic. She came from an Orthodox Jewish family. Her mother could not accept her marriage choice and refused to see her. My grandfather was able to secretly see my mom a few times before his death, along with a visit to meet my sister and me. I don’t remember this visit but felt his loss as I learned more about him. He emigrated here from Russia as a young man to escape enforced conscription. His marriage to my grandmother, who was 20 years younger, was arranged. He was self-taught and gave my mother her love of literature and reading. He was also a very kind man who loved his daughter. I wish I could have known him.

Lauren Nance

He is a grandson, son, brother, cousin, nephew, uncle, father, grandfather, friend, husband.

He is caring, the tall man that wraps his arms around his mother and Nana.

He is funny—so funny that I still remember having sore cheeks when my Nana dropped me off from our weekends together.

He is protective, the father of three daughters who need him and deserve him everyday.

He is brave, the courage that his two younger brothers have only been able to experience for a portion of their young lives.

We remember you as these qualities everyday. You are not a victim of senseless violence to us. You are more than a folder in someone’s drawer to us. Although it was cut short, your life matters to us, still, everyday. I’m unsure if it hurts worse that after 20 years, your murder has remained unsolved, and that it’s been unspoken of by law enforcement for at least 15 years. But I do know that it’s not right and means to me that they don’t care.

The chain is broken, but we heal everyday. We are grateful for the time we have had with you, but we miss and love you every moment we are without you.

Benjamin Edwin DeWillis, we love you and remember you … I miss you everyday, Cuz.

Anonymous

I’ll never forget that last night we went to karaoke, and you said, “I had a good last hurrah.” It struck me as odd at the time, and I knew things were dark for you, but I genuinely thought I could help you in your time of need. In the two weeks that followed, I called and texted, but you never called back. Finally, I went to Facebook, and that’s how I found out that you had killed yourself.

I had nightmares for weeks, until I finally made contact with a family member. They didn’t actually seem to care, but at least I stopped dreaming of all the ways you could have done it. I realized the way you went about things was deliberate, well-planned and executed; I never stopped wondering if I missed something, or if you would still be alive without that gun.

I miss you, I still cry and I’m passionate about pushing for gun reform, so that no one ever has to find out from Facebook that their friend is dead, like I did.

Anonymous

As a child, I grew up seeing photos of an uncle I never knew. I remember asking my mother who this person was, and she told me that he went to heaven a long time ago. When I was old enough to understand, she told me that her brother shot himself.

My mother grew up in a household where her father was an alcoholic; there was a lot of financial strain and physical abuse. There was no emotional support for her and her five siblings. One day, my uncle was in a horrible fight with his high school sweetheart. Feeling alone and afraid and hopeless, he took his father’s pistol and shot himself in the backyard of their house. Realizing what he had done, he ran into the house to get help. He’d hit a large artery and bled to death. He was only 15.

Persis Beaven

Ulyses was the friend every parent wishes for their children. I could trust him and call him at any time. My friend was kind and respectful. He loved his wife and two-year old son, but at the fear of losing his family, he became a victim of gun suicide. I knew my friend wasn’t stable enough to have a gun, but he assured me that it was in a safe. In Texas, we don’t have extreme protection orders or red flag laws. I wish I could’ve raised that flag for him. Now I volunteer with Moms Demand Action to honor his memory and the thousands of victims and survivors of gun violence.

A teacher’s story

I was a ballroom dance teacher. I met with my students weekly, usually for a standing appointment. One evening my student was late—and he was never late. I called his home and was astounded that a policeman answered the phone. I told him why I was calling, and he told me that my student had shot himself and was dead.

He seemed as unprepared and shocked to be saying these words as I was to be hearing them. Nothing more to be said. Call over.

“Charles” was not my loved one, but he was a liked one—a nice man I danced with, smiled with, talked to. I cannot imagine the pain of his family and close friends if I, simply his dance teacher, still think of him often, and with such sadness.

Jamie Lynn Towsand

On June 10, 2017, my son’s father, Samuel Lamar Dixon, was murdered—lost to gun violence in Syracuse, New York. The morning after seeing off his beautiful Deana to her senior prom, five days before his son’s thirteenth birthday, and an hour after dropping his daughter off to work.

We are forever grieved and heartbroken.

Wanda Ridgeway

On March 9, 2006, my family’s lives changed forever. My dear nephew, Hershel Scriven, a youth minister, was shot while backing out of a driveway. Hershel, along with four others, was returning from seeing The Lion King at our local auditorium. While he was backing out of the driveway, three young men approached the car, and then two men proceeded to shoot into the car, trying to rob them. Hershel was the only one hit. The bullet hit him in his head. Hershel didn’t die right away but after being removed from ventilator, a few days later and shy of his 24th birthday.

Tess S.

In 2015, my dear friend Paul took his own life with a firearm. As his friend, I knew he had struggled with depression ever since being laid off from a job he loved. I also knew he had sought therapy and was taking an antidepressant. He was vehemently anti-gun violence and had never owned a gun.

I had just seen him at a mutual friend’s home the weekend before. He seemed upbeat and happy. One week later, while his partner was out of town, he purchased a gun and used it to end his life. He was 60 years old. In the U.S., the majority of gun deaths are attributed to gun suicides. I believe my friend would be alive today had he not been able to purchase a gun.

Guns and depression are a lethal combination. This is one reason why I fought so hard for Washington state’s red flag law. It’s why I continue to fight to end gun violence and advocate for gun safety laws in our state through Moms Demand Action.