Colleen M

I lost my mother to suicide when I was 25 and pregnant with my youngest child. She used my father’s gun and the bullet that he stored separately. He left her the key, even knowing that she was depressed.

I think about her every day and have only recently come to terms with her death, which happened in November 2002.

Damian Meins

November 15, 2015. My birthday weekend. My dad, mom, sister and I are having an “adventure weekend,” open to possibilities, no expectations, just fun. My grandfather spent years living near the Salton Sea, and having heard many stories about him, I wanted to see the place for myself. Dad’s happy, but pensive. I photographed him as he walked along the water. Was he thinking about his dad?

November 25. I returned home to stay with my parents for the entire Thanksgiving holiday and weekend. It’s wonderful. Typically Dad and I’d visit his sister up north this weekend, but she’s ill, so we stay local. It turns out to be a blessing. We have five whole days together, eating, watching movies, having intense philosophical conversations, laughing, rearranging furniture, and picking out a Christmas tree. I go home on Monday, happy.

On Wednesday, December 2, Mom calls me at work. I answer immediately. She’s been sick; I want to make sure she’s okay.  

“Do you see the news?” she asks.  

I had seen online that there was a big shooting in San Bernardino.  “Another one?” I’d thought, incredulously. 

“Yes, I saw,” I reply.  

“Your father is in that building, and I can’t get hold of him.”

I remember every second of that conversation and the ones that followed as I raced home—the desperate calls to hospitals to find out if he was there; to police; to information hotlines; to family members, telling them what was happening.

I remember watching each survivor depart the buses at the reunification center, looking for my dad, hoping in some strange way I’d see his hat, though I knew he wouldn’t wear it to work. 

Dad never came home. He was killed that day, along with 13 coworkers. Another coworker and his wife declared allegiance to a terrorist organization, and shot my dad five times. He died within seconds.  

It still hurts, every day. I am not the same person I was before December 2. But I am forever grateful for the time we had together, and I will always cherish our memories, especially those we made in those last few weeks. 

Brian Shahwan

My parents immigrated here from Jordan when my dad was getting his Ph.D. He became a top chemist at AstraZeneca and encouraged my mom to open her own home decorating business. They had two daughters and a boy, me. One night, while they were closing my mom’s store, my mom’s brother walked in, shot and killed my dad and then turned the gun on himself. My mom was there when it happened.

My sisters were 18 and 16, and I was 11. Our whole world changed in a matter of seconds. To this day, no one knows why it happened, but they knew my mom’s brother was having mental health issues. My mom was devastated and wore no makeup and all black for about 10 years. She went back to the store where it happened and continued to open for business. She was never the same, but now, after 20 years, she’s slowly getting back to who she was. She never remarried or dated. People don’t understand the true impact of what guns can do when your whole world is turned upside down by one. We have to make a change.

Deborah Kemper

Our mother, Lorena Thompson, was the second child of seven. She was my grandmother’s favorite. She worked at the Los Angeles Airport as a ticket agent. My stepfather was “in between jobs” a lot. My mother would typically leave work at the end of the day and go to my grandmother’s, make dinner and then come home to cook for us. She was well-loved by her parents, her siblings and friends.

I was seven years old, in the second grade, when our mother was murdered. She was 32 years old and recently separated from our stepfather. She left early on Monday, November 1, 1965, to go to the unemployment office in downtown Los Angeles because my stepfather had caused her to lose her job. He had stalked us for months. At the unemployment office, he shot and killed her as she tried to run to safety. He shot others who tried to help, but he killed her, emptying his gun as he stood over her. He used a gun that he had stolen three months earlier during the Watts riots.

It was a selfish act that silenced her voice forever.

Bettye Howard

I grew up in Texas. It was in the 1960s. I was 16 years old, upstairs in my bed, asleep on a Sunday morning. I was awakened by a loud sound, a gunshot. I ran downstairs and found my father, a 44-year-old prominent physician, slumped over the couch with a bleeding shot to his head. The ambulance came, and I felt a slight pulse, hoping he had a chance. I knew there was family turmoil, but I didn’t know what happened. I got into the ambulance with him and even was allowed in the ER before emergency surgery to remove the bullet. The staff all knew him.

The bullet was too deep in his brain to be removed. He survived but was paralyzed on one side of his body. He never wanted to talk much about it afterwards and claimed he was shooting after a snake, so I never asked more. I helped him dress and drove him around and got him ready to teach at a medical school, but it was depressing. He lived for four years, but then succumbed to his injury at 47. I wished we didn’t have gun in our home, but that’s what they did in Texas.

Heartbroken

My beautiful, kind, sweet mom was murdered on August 2, 1984. Someone broke into our family home and shot her three times. Her killers have never been caught. They took her purse and the jewelry she was wearing. A life taken away for nothing. My mom was full of life and generous beyond measure. Smart and so funny. Our home was always the gathering place. She made everyone feel welcome.

Nancy A. Sullivan

On June 4, 2013, my mom, Nancy Sullivan, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in Shoreview, Minneapolis. My mom, my best friend, died of multiple gunshot wounds in front of me. Before he turned the gun on himself and died by suicide, her ex-boyfriend first shot me and my daughter’s dad several times as well.

Fortunately, my daughter did not lose either of her parents that day; however, she lost her grandma, whom she loved dearly, and she has been scarred for life by what took place. No, my daughter was not present when the shooting happened, but that did not stop the ripple effects of devastation from reaching her. It reaches many and does not discriminate. Years later we live the PTSD brought on by guns.

This was the second incident in which I was shot. In 2008, less than a month after giving birth to my daughter, I was shot in a drive-by shooting in south Minneapolis. We have lost other loved ones to gun violence as well, and the impact has been immense. Gun violence has to end. It can end. We are responsible for everyone’s safety.

Bonnie

My father was a domestic abuser, whose violence and threats had gotten so bad that my family and I had to escape in the middle of the night. Leaving him did not end his threats, though. He threatened to kill himself as a way to manipulate us to come back. He continued to threaten my immediate family and anyone he thought was keeping us away from him.

One night, many months after I had escaped, I received a call from my mother. She told me that my uncle had done a wellness check on my father, and that he had found an arsenal of weapons that my father had collected. Apparently my father had planned to make good on his threats, but my uncle was able to remove the guns before my father was able to use them on anyone. I am grateful that no one was murdered by my father’s hands, but I still grieve, knowing that many families are not as lucky as mine.

Dr. Lorenzo Neal

In the summer of 1980, when I was 5, my 25-year-old mother, Sharon Neal, was killed in an act of domestic violence that involved a gun in my hometown of Monroe, Louisiana. She left behind her four young boys (my brothers — Kevin, Emanuel and Joshua — and me) to be raised by her parents. Kevin would go on to join the U.S. Navy, marry and have a son of his own, Kevin Jr., lovingly known as “Make Mae.” Lil Kevin had a great big smile and an even bigger personality. He was in the JROTC at his school and worked part time. On October 19, 2016, at the age of 18 and in his senior year of high school, Kevin was taken from us in a senseless act of gun violence in Newport News, Virginia. They both live in my heart, and I will work to keep their memories alive.

Anonymous

“Our daddy is dead.” I cannot forget those words and the heart-stopping gut punch that I felt as my brother told me that my best friend, mentor and rock was no longer. It was not the PTSD from Korea and Vietnam, the diabetes, the loss of his legs, nor the self-medicating with alcohol that ended his life; it was his easy access to a gun in those final moments when he lost all hope. His youngest brother followed a couple of years later, also with that same instrument of death, destruction and loss. Suicide may be an individual choice, but I firmly believe that my dear father and uncle would still be on this earth if not for a gun.