Manny was only 14 years old when a friendly get-together with an unsecured gun led to his death. Although Manny was not my brother by blood, we were family nonetheless. This was the first and only time I witnessed my strong, stoic father fall apart in agony. Being only 10 at the time, I struggled to understand why this happened and to really believe he was gone. I didn’t know how to help, and I didn’t want to need to be taken care of.
At his funeral, I remember trying to stay out of the way but also feeling incredibly sad and confused. I found myself alone, next to his casket. I remember willing him to breathe again and imagining that it worked. That day, I learned that children can die too and that safety and security are not inherent. I also learned funeral etiquette, which would serve me well for two additional funerals I would attend, due to gun violence, before my 16th birthday.
I work to prevent gun violence to honor Manny, all of the children that have died and those left behind to make sense of it all.