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.

Josh Kadish

On August 10, 1999, I shed my skin as a 9-year-old boy and grew up overnight. I figured I couldn’t be a child anymore when my parents nearly lost their own child.

That morning, a man with hate in his heart shot up the Jewish summer camp we’d been attending, injuring a receptionist, a counselor and three children – my 5-year-old brother, Ben, among them. That day has been imprinted into the back of my mind…but what I remember most is seeing my parents again for the first time.

I remember them hugging me so tight that I thought my lungs were going to pop. I remember looking into their eyes, and at their tears. I told myself, “I can’t cry,” that I needed to stay strong for my mom and dad. If I broke, what hope could they possibly have?

My brother is fortunate enough to have his scars serve as a reminder of what we all nearly lost. But the memories from that day still haunt us all, nearly every time we look at the news.

This is why I’ve demanded more of myself today. Today, instead of crying, I choose to stand up with Everytown and fight for our lives!

Allison Lefrak

Buckley and Scott Fricker were killed by their teenage daughter’s ex-boyfriend on December 22, 2017. After discovering that he was spreading anti-Semitic views online, they tried to protect their daughter and keep hate out of their home. But the young man had easy access to a firearm, and he used it to kill Buckley and Scott in the middle of the night, just days before Christmas, in their own home.

Buckley and I met when we were 13 years old, and we remained close friends for more than 20 years. She was a devoted, compassionate and generous friend. I miss her dearly every day.

Virginia law must be changed. There is comprehensive gun legislation pending now in the state that would, among other things, enhance the punishment for allowing a child access to a loaded, unsecured firearm and raise the age of a child from 14 to 18. If this law was in effect in 2017, Buckley and Scott might be alive today.

Hannah Kaye

On April 27, 2019, my precious mother, Lori, and I rushed out of the house to attend services at our synagogue in San Diego. It was the last day of the Jewish holiday of Passover, coinciding with a day to say Yizkor (the Jewish prayer of mourning). My mom was eager to get to our synagogue on time because she didn’t want to miss the chance to say the Yizkor prayer for her own mother, who passed away back in November 2018. It was a sunny day, and my mom wore a white dress with a gold and black scarf draped over her shoulders. Before we left the house, I went into her bathroom, where she was putting on makeup and we hugged for a few moments, sunlight coming in through the window above.

Twenty or 30 minutes after we arrived at the synagogue, I was sitting in the sanctuary where prayers are held, talking to a family friend of ours. My mom had just set down her prayer book next to our family friend and walked out into the hallway to greet the rabbi. Seconds later, a 19-year-old boy stormed in with a weapon of war, yelled and began to shoot. Our rabbi lost a finger, a young girl’s face was hit with shrapnel, and another man was shot in his thigh. But my mom was shot four times, killed instantly.

I don’t have the words yet to describe how I feel, or where I am at with this horrifying and unbelievably devastating tragedy. All I can say is that my mom was an extraordinary, loving, full-of-life, angelic force — “60 and fabulous,” as she wrote on her birthday, of reaching a new decade the year before. She, as well as every single person on this planet, did not deserve to die this way, from hate and violence and the cruelty of bullets.

Pierce Hastings

On Sunday, April 13, 2014, my aunt Terri LaManno started her day like any other Sunday. She went to Mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church then drove to Winstead’s, an iconic burger joint in Kansas City, to buy my grandmother’s favorite meal — a double patty with a chocolate malt. She took the food and drove over to Village Shalom, a Jewish nursing home where my grandmother lived. After getting out of the car, she saw a man aiming a gun towards another woman in the parking lot and yelled to get his attention so the other woman could escape. Terri put up her hand and started to plead, but it was too late. He fired a shot that went through her hand and into her heart. She died within minutes. He got back into his car and drove away. He was stopped by police 10 minutes later. Before going to Village Shalom, he had gone to the nearby Jewish Community Center and shot 14-year-old Reat Underwood and his grandfather, Will Corporon. Will died at the scene from a shotgun wound to the head. Reat bled out at the hospital from handgun wounds. As he was being arrested, the shooter spat and screamed “HEIL HITLER!” He was taken into custody unharmed.

Coming from a white Catholic family, I never thought that anti-Semitism, white supremacy or gun violence would directly affect my life. Nobody ever believes that they will be the family that people read about on the news. But then, a neo-Nazi, granddragon of the KKK, ex-felon finds a way to purchase a handgun and a shotgun through a straw purchase and suddenly has the tools to turn his hatred-filled fantasy into a reality. We will never be able to do away with hate, nor the people blinded by it. Hate’s roots run too deep. But we can disarm hate. We can make sure that hateful people cannot access the tools they need to carry out their plans. It’s our urgent responsibility to act, march, organize, advocate and legislate until the pool of survivors stops growing.

Kati Wall

On November 5, 2017, my parents, Dennis (77) and Sara (68) Johnson, went to church at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, as they often did. They were shot and killed in their pew along with 24 other victims that morning. There has not been a day since that has not felt horrible.

My parents were married 44 years, raised six children and several grandchildren, and were the backbone of our family.

Dennis was retired and had served both in the Navy and the Army. He enjoyed spending time taking care of his yard, watching the same Western movies over and over, and sitting on the porch telling humorous stories about his youth. He was a really tall man, and even in his old age very strong. No matter how old or big I got, I always still felt like a little girl in his hugs. He always had a hug for me and some positive words. He constantly reminded me not to worry about the things I can’t control, to have faith, and to find joy in life.

Sara was still working at a small home and garden store. She was feisty, funny and incredibly nurturing. She still went on cross-country road trips with her best friend multiple times a year. She was my best friend. She was the person I would call any time I was upset or excited or had news or needed advice about kids or husbands. She was sassy and kept us laughing. Her favorite activities were crafting, shopping and loving on babies. She taught me so much about unconditional love in the way that she was always there for her children, no matter how big their mistakes.

I miss them both every single day. It is so hard to believe that tiny bits of metal could turn off the light that these two exuded. Seven hundred fifty rounds were fired from two AR-15s into their church that day, in an 11 minute window. Twenty-six were killed, everyone else present was wounded. This has to stop.

Cheryl Stumbo

My shooting was a hate crime. I was shot, my coworkers were shot, because a man filled with hate assumed we were Jewish. Some of us were. I was not, then. My shooter was a stranger, a hate-filled man frustrated with his own lack of significance in the world. He was the ultimate form of a bully — someone who kills others because of the hate he harbors in his heart and mind.

I was shot Friday, July 28, 2006, at about 4:00 p.m., while at work at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. My shooter was convicted of one count of aggravated murder (a hate crime, and with a firearm) and five counts of attempted murder. He was found guilty by a jury on December 15, 2009. My mom, who sat with me through both entire trials (the first trial was declared a mistrial — there was an anti-Semite on the jury, we found out later), died a couple of weeks later, on December 27, 2009, of cancer.

A couple of weeks later, on January 14, 2010, my shooter was sentenced to life in prison, no parole. His victims were allowed to speak at the sentencing hearing. I said to him, “You will spend the rest of your life paying for your choices. I’m making choices. I choose to change the world by helping, not hurting.” I made true on that promise by becoming the citizen sponsor of Washington State’s Initiative 594 for universal background checks on all firearms sales, which passed by a landslide vote in November 2014.