Cate

My daughter called. She told me that she and her date were told to get on the ground. The guns at their heads were cocked and ready. They waited for the thieves to finish. Was this the end? The only thought was the guns and how they would die. When would they pull the trigger? My stomach dropped like never before.

We both have PTSD. She was robbed of her fierce independence. Years later, it is coming back. She’s a real fighter. I am becoming a warrior to help end gun violence.

That night will always be with us. It is with us every night. Just one “click” away. I pray for all that heard that click, and all the heartache that it has caused for them.

Anonymous

My sister was leaving my house when she drove right into the middle of an attempted murder. The chased man drove right into her car and wrecked it, trying to escape four men in an SUV shooting at him. After he crashed into her, he ran off into the woods. The men in the SUV were shooting toward my sister, trying to get at their intended victim. The shot up a nearby house too. They were blind to everything around them; they just wanted to kill. My sister refused to come to my home after that. It was several years before we were able to leave that house. The police never found the men in the SUV.

Anonymous

I was 26 and working in youth development. Underfunded and undertrained. I had a student come to me and say, “Hey, something is up. I was jumped at school today.” We decided he was safe, after asking very directly if he felt safe at school. Safe at home. Safe in the community. He said he felt safe. He walked out the door, and 15 minutes later, he was shot. I was filled with grief, fear and relentless anger.

I went to work, worried about retaliation. We were all so afraid. I always knew where the exit sign was. I wanted to be strong for the kids. I kept them away from the windows. I thought about who I would have to jump in front of, when/if it happened. Another shooting. Protect the kids. Protect the kids. Soon enough, my body imploded from the fear: I herniated a disk in my back.

From this event, I developed PTSD and experienced homelessness. I lost my company. I lost my community. For a period of time, I lost my family.

More recently, things are turning around. I moved to a new city. A fresh start. Now at 32, I’m finally on the mend.

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.

Kit

While loading up my car from my friend’s apartment on a Sunday morning, I was approached by a man who was blinking his eyes erratically. He got my attention by saying “excuse me.” I turned around, and he proceeded to count down from five. In between numbers, he took the bag, threw it aside and told me to get in my car. Then he wiggled the gun he was hiding down by his leg and told me he was going to shoot me. I ran away and made it into the building safely. He rode away on his bike, leaving everything untouched.

For a week or so, I had adrenaline rushes every other minute. The event was on replay — emotions and visual memory. I couldn’t look at guns. I was mad about everyone telling me how brave I was; this was just plain survival. I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be alive, and that I was messing up everyone else’s fate by being here.

I called up a colleague who does Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, and that fixed the broken record, rushes and acceptance of everything. I can recall the incident with no emotion now.

Anonymous

My already abusive ex-husband loaded his .22 one night in an alcohol-filled rage and held it to my head, demanding answers to ridiculous questions. He calmed down and unloaded it. Then he became enraged again and reloaded it in front of me, to hold it to my head again, asking more ridiculous questions. I received a restraining order (that he tried to get out of, saying he was a chronic alcoholic; the judge almost laughed) and started a criminal domestic violence (CDV) case against him. When I dropped my name from the charges, the state picked them up.

He tried to get out of it by saying that I had bought the gun (true) and that there was no proof (the cops picked up the gun and presented it in the pre-trial hearing). He was convicted of CDV of a high and aggravated nature (HAN) and sentenced to 10 years. That was suspended to 14 months, of which he had already spent 12 in county jail awaiting psychological testing, etc., so his prison sentence was actually only six weeks. To this day, I have severe PTSD.

Michelle

I was in eighth grade at my best friend’s house across the street. Her parents were out for the night; her older brother and his friend were there. She and I were playing a board game in the family room, when the brother’s friend walked out naked, holding her father’s rifle. He pointed it at us and asked, “Who wants to suck my dick first?”

I froze. He started laughing and swung around. When his back was to us, I bolted out the back door, through their side yard and home. I never told anyone. She and I never discussed it, but I never went to their house again when her parents were not home. Within a year, we stopped hanging out altogether.

Anonymous

I’m a Southern woman who grew up with hunting guns. They are tools of killing and are to be treated with caution. I’m also someone who…

1. had a coworker point a loaded pistol at me in jest – a joke I didn’t find funny;

2. lived in the dorm (albeit years before) at Virginia Tech where the first murders happened;

3. sat beside a friend and held her hand as she cried for her dead 9-year-old son, killed by the stupidity of an adult who couldn’t be bothered to store a handgun properly;

4. stood beside the coffin of said 9 year old and tried to comfort his grandparents (also friends);

5. found out that there was a shooting in the high school my children attended, and was able to send them back the next day, the day after that, and so on.

We don’t let people operate a 2,000-pound car that has the potential to kill and maim without demonstration of competence and insurance. Why let people have tools designed to kill without the same minimum requirements? That is what a gun is — a tool to kill.

Angel Gonzales Jr.

When I was in high school, the sweet, loving and playful dad I knew was disappearing to mental illness and alcoholism that would sometimes turn violent. One night, I heard my parents arguing in the kitchen, and then I saw my mother run into her bedroom. I went in to ask my father what happened, and when I walked in, I froze; he was pointing his handgun at me. He raised his arm and shot above my head.

A couple of years later, I received a phone call from my mom saying she was scared because my father was upset and looking for his handgun. I told her to hide in a wooded area away from the house and that I would be there in about 15 minutes. When I arrived, I found my mom safe outside, but when I went inside the house, I found my father taking his last breaths. He had used the handgun he’d kept in the kitchen on himself. This happened in 1996 and still feels like it was yesterday. I wish he were here today, to joke and play with my wife and children.

Anonymous

I was in my art class when we were put on lockdown. This was the second time in the past three months (including summer) that we had been put on a real lockdown. We all got under the desks as my teacher locked the door and turned the lights off. The first thing I did was text my parents and my friends. I had gotten texts from my friends saying they heard gunshots.

Our lockdown siren flashes blue and red the whole time, so we all started getting headaches. We waited for three hours in lockdown, our phones flooded with messages about what was happening. A kid had shot another and went into class; the kid who was shot drove himself to the hospital; a SWAT team was searching our school. Again, this wasn’t the first time we had a serious lockdown with a full SWAT team searching our school. The kid survived, thank God.