Carmen Pagan (S.O.M.B.E.R)

My name is Carmen Pagan. On January 3, 2016, at 5:59 p.m., my oldest brother, Richard Davila, was shot three times and killed as he made his way across the street to my mother’s home. Richard was caught in between a drug turf war, where the individuals who were standing on opposite sides of West Wishart Street decided to open fire, from one end to the other, at each other. My brother was caught in the crossfire.

After the shots rang out, my mother called my brother’s cell phone to make sure he was OK, and there was no answer. My mother, father and siblings ran out after the shooting ceased and found my brother lying between the sidewalk and street unresponsive. He took his last breaths on that cold sidewalk on that day. My mother called me shortly after, and it is a phone call I will never forget: a mother’s cry for the loss of her son. In October 2020 I would place that same call to my mother, as my son had been shot three times but survived. So many lives changed forever. Too many gone too soon.

Cassie and all of the Gymcats

It was Monday, two days before school was going to end. Brooklynn walked by me in our gym, and we exchanged hellos— nothing special, but little did I know that this was the last time I would see her. She went over to her friend’s house the next day after school. That friend’s dad had a gun in the cabinet. We’re not sure how or why, but Brooklynn’s friend got the gun down, something happened and Brooklynn was shot in the back.

Brooklynn’s dad was called, and he raced over to their house, heart racing, thinking he would find her hurt but that everything would be okay. It wasn’t; she died from her wound in his arms. Darchel, her mom, was beyond devastated, as all of us were. She could not believe her 13-year-old girl was gone. Her friends at gymnastics could not believe it either. We are all still devastated, almost eight years later. Brooklynn would’ve been 21 this year, 2021.

Rafael Burgos

My name is Rafael, father of my beautiful loving gem. Her name is Alexandria Imani Burgos. Alexandria was my only daughter; she was the light of my life, daddy’s little girl. As a baby, Alexandria was observant, so loving and funny. Alexandria loved the beach and loved sports, especially basketball, dancing, softball and swimming. She loved holidays because the family would get together; as a child, family was very important to her. Years later, after she was killed, we found a journal she would write in, and that was something she wrote in her journal: how much family meant to her. At 18 years old, she even wanted to get a tattoo infinity sign.

She had a younger brother; they were only 17 months apart. She loved him so much. Even as a child, her friends would call her Mother Teresa, because she looked after her brother and everyone else. Alexandria was shy but a motivator, and she was ambitious. She wanted to study to be a social worker. She loved hanging out with her closest friends, going to the movies and baking. She even went to culinary school in high school. On October 19, 2014, she was killed by a stray bullet.


My cousin was playing with a .22 rifle that his older brother stored in their shared bedroom. The family hunted, so there were several guns in the house; the rule was to make sure they were unloaded before bringing them in the house. The gun went off as he was handling it, and I suddenly found myself sitting on the floor.

I didn’t realize what had happened until I looked up and saw the terrified look on my cousin’s face. When I looked down, I saw a tiny hole in my shirt with a spot of blood and a smudge of gunpowder. I was lucky to have been shot in the chest, 6 millimeters from my aorta, and not in the head or abdomen. I was also lucky to have been on the receiving end of the bullet, because the mental scars left by that accident are much harder on my cousin than the physical scars that still affect my health.

Beckie Squires

My 9-year-old great nephew, Grady, was shot and killed with an unsecured semiautomatic handgun by another boy. Since that time, so many things have changed for our family. His mom and grandma, my niece and sister, will never be the same. In an effort to keep his memory alive and also to help prevent this tragedy from happening to others, my daughter and I both joined Moms Demand Action in 2016. Grady’s life was cut short because irresponsible adults left a firearm where children could access it. We miss Grady every day.


When I was 6 years old, I lived on a military base. On Armed Forces Day, the kids on the base went together to climb on the planes, tanks, etc. A 17-year-old older brother of one of the kids picked us up to take us back home. There was a rifle in the back seat. We climbed into the car, and I was up against the door. One of the kids, an 8-year-old boy, picked up the gun and pointed it at me across the back seat. He said “Put your hands up, or I’ll shoot!”

I was a timid little girl, so I shrugged my shoulders. The gun went off, and the bullet went in and out of my shoulder into my jaw. I still have a scar in my jaw. I was lucky that it hit my shoulder and not my temple. If it had, I wouldn’t be alive to share this story. When my tough Marine dad arrived at the ER, he passed out cold upon seeing me. I don’t remember much after that. Safe storage could have prevented this!

Gavin’s Mom

My son’s name is Gavin. Not was, but still is: Gavin. And I am his voice now. Gavin only got to be five years old for 12 short days. Ten years ago, one day after Thanksgiving, my son got hold of his daddy’s duty weapon. He shot himself in the face and passed away.

We as parents must keep these guns out of the reach of our children. I assumed I had the safest house, living with a police officer. But with the gun being locked, cocked and ready to rock, it took my son’s life in a matter of seconds. I mourn my child every day and now am fighting almost 19 months for a change in how we keep weapons. But it is a fight I cannot do alone. It’s too late for my child. But not for yours. Please think about it.

Cadet Aurora McCarter

She wanted to make a real change. She was at Purcell Marian High School, in her junior year. A police cadet, working full-time at McDonalds. She was very determined and focused on ultimately being a FBI Agent. She had a savior complex: She felt as if she could help those whom people and society would write off. She always stood for what was right and desired to make a serious change in our system.

However, in Cincinnati, on August 14, 2020, my Aurora was murdered. A 16-year-old boy bought an illegal gun from an adult man. The 16 year old decided to rob the man, and shots were fired. My Aurora was shot, one single time—gone. Everything she wanted to be, and it’s like this: Just gone? No!

The 16 year old is charged! Aurora, 17 years old, murdered—the equation doesn’t add up. I dread awakening every day without her. Life doesn’t seem real, isn’t real! She had everything, and she was everything I ever wanted to be. I, as her mom, put everything I had into molding her, and I just can’t believe I’m here in this world without my beautiful Aurora. Say her name: “Cadet Aurora McCarter.”


My son Eric was shot at age 18, on February 27, 2020, by his friend while disabling a gun.

Kittie Ryan McMillan

My son Tim was 41 years old when he was struck down by a stray bullet that came through the wall of his home. He was sheltering two young girls that had run from a party next door to his home when gunfire broke out. He left behind a wife and a five-year-old son. Tim was a well-known and well-loved musician in the Carbondale, Illinois, area.

I have many memories of Tim. He was good, and kind, and he had a twinkle in his eye. He was an amazing father to Jake. Nothing will ever take those memories away from me. I am sad for the memories I will never have the opportunity to make.

I will never have the memory of my son teaching his son to ride a bike or catch a baseball. I will never have the memory of seeing the joy on my son’s face as he watched his little boy open Christmas gifts. I will never have the memory of seeing my son and his wife welcome another child to their family.

I cherish the memories of Tim that I have, but I mourn those that are lost.