A survivor of domestic violence and someone who was threatened to be killed with a gun, my mother was shot by my father. She survived the attack because as the gun was pointed to her head, she knocked it away and was shot in her leg. My first cousin was also shot and killed by her husband, who then shot himself in 1999. My organization A-Way-Out Ministries, Inc. helps to end domestic violence.
Well, on the night of August 4, 2019, I was out enjoying the night with my father, Derrick Fudge, at a popular nightclub district in downtown Dayton, Ohio, called the Oregon District. A young male came down the side of the building firing a AR-15 weapon, killing my father beside me and eight other innocent lives. I was performing CPR, trying to save my dad’s life; the shooter was still on the street, shooting, until the police took him down. I still cannot believe that I did not die that night, but instead my father died for me, shielding the bullets that could have been for me.
I didn’t grow up with a stable mother-daughter relationship. My parents divorced when I was little, and I hardly knew my dad. My mother was in and out of my life from the time I was three until the age of 14. I did not know it at the time, but my mother has bipolar disorder and refused to take her medication, resulting in her being in a state of mania half the time. I deeply loved my mother, and I still do.
About four years ago, I saw my mother for the first time in about five or six years. I still didn’t understand her condition, and when she wanted to have a private talk with me, I obliged. Little did I know: She planned to shoot me, then herself. The fact that my mother could get access to a gun was disheartening. Thankfully, family members found us and calmed her down. I haven’t seen my mother since then, and I miss her every day.
My dad was a man of tremendous integrity, intelligence and strength—both physical and mental. He had been successful in his work and was enjoying a comfortable retirement, his days filled with hobbies like kite surfing, golf and skeet shooting. He also spent his days with family who adored him—his wife, her children and their grandchildren. I didn’t live as close or see him as often.
It was an Earth-shattering shock when I received the call telling me that my dad had shot himself in the driveway of his house, with his wife inside making the lunch he was supposed to deliver to a beloved granddaughter.
He was a card-carrying member of the NRA and had a cabinet full of rifles, and other guns. I don’t dispute his right to own them, to enjoy hunting or skeet shooting, but words cannot explain how sad I am to count myself among the survivors of gun violence. I wish we had all paid more attention to his mental state, to his physical and emotional pain (hard because he was so stoic), to the myriad risk factors … He’s gone for good, and my heart is still bleeding.
My father had an obsession with guns, a stocked gun cabinet and mental illness. The result of this was his suicide and a lifetime of trauma for my mother and me. On the day he shot himself, he threatened to shoot my mother and me as well. Our story did not end that way, but the impact of that day remains forever burned on our souls.
He was an incredible dad and husband. He would light up every room he walked into with his smile and humor. His generosity continues to amaze me to this day.
He suffered from depression for many years. I know this split-second decision does not define who he was, but it has altered my life forever.
I miss him dearly and hope I can live up to his legacy.
Gun violence also includes suicide by gun. Losing my father was the single most defining moment of my life. Nothing was ever the same. Everything I knew to be true changed. There will never be a day I don’t think of him. I will always be a gun law proponent. No other loved one should be left to pick up the pieces of a life shattered.
When I first heard Luther Vandross’s song, “Dance With My Father Again,” I never, ever entertained the thought that it would have such an impact on my heart. I’m going to go back in time: On April 24, 1959, I was born to a loving young couple and a two-year-old big brother. A small town in Louisiana, where wooden floors were a dancer’s delight!
I am 61 now, and I still hear stories from my elders about how my father loved to dance. On one occasion, he decided that he was going to bring me to the club. (I was 6 months old!) He danced with me, as he showed off his first baby girl. Well, shortly after that, at the same club, a man shot and killed my father. He was 25; my mother was 19. Although I don’t remember him, I feel his love.
Gun violence is why, this day, I yearn to “dance with my father again.”
My father, Chris Hixon, was killed while trying to confront the shooter during the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. He was a Navy veteran and the first person to respond to the sound of gunfire. He simply wanted to help the students he mentored and loved.
His murder forever impacted my family and gave us a new focus on ensuring our experience doesn’t happen to anyone else. I will continue to honor his legacy while also ensuring gun violence and suicide are no longer a pandemic in this country. As a Marine Corps veteran, I am honored to be able to aid in this goal by serving on Everytown’s Veterans Advisory Council.
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.