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In memory of my dad (Coach V) and brother (Bill, age 17)

In October 2003, the mother of a 19-year-old boy from my hometown shot to death her own mother and their pastor in her church. Four months later, on January 13, 2004, that 19-year-old boy rang the doorbell to my childhood home where my father, mother and brother were home. I had gone back to the University of Georgia after Christmas break of my sophomore year, a few days earlier. It was late, nearly 11 p.m., and my mother and brother were in bed, but my father was a high school football and wrestling coach and had just returned from a wrestling tournament in Athens, Georgia.

The boy rang the doorbell, and my dad answered it. My dad answered the door because he had spent his entire life helping teenagers and saw one who looked like he was hurting standing on the patio of our nice brick home in the suburbs of Atlanta. When he saw the gun, my dad put the boy into a half nelson (wrestling move) that immobilized him.

The exchange was noisy, though, and it woke my mother and my 17-year-old brother, Bill. My mom ran to call the police. Bill was a big kid, the center of my dad’s football team, and he ran down our stairs to help my dad when he saw what was happening in the foyer. The police think maybe my dad was distracted by Bill coming down the stairs, because we know he shouted for Bill to stay upstairs and safe. Those were his last words, as the 19-year-old boy pulled free and shot my dad in the head.

The boy then shot my little brother on the stairs, but Bill kept charging him and was shot again in the chest and fell in the doorway as he chased the boy out of our house.

Our house was about a mile from the police station, and this happened at shift change, so the 19-year-old was surrounded pretty quickly. He fled on foot through our backyard and was killed by police officers after he shot at the K-9 cop.

My father never got to meet my husband or hold my children. My brother never got to graduate from high school or cheer for his own college’s football team (he would have been Auburn Class of 2008).

My mother and I went from the type of people who didn’t lock our doors to the type of people who own security systems. We were told by insensitive people that perhaps guns could have saved them, but who answers their front door holding a Glock? And who wants to live in a world where we should?

I don’t know where that boy’s gun came from. I don’t know where his mother’s gun came from. But I believe they were victims as much as I am. My heart breaks for him, too.

Reacting shows support for gun violence survivors.