Nearly 20 years ago, my 14-year-old niece graduated from eighth grade in Phoenix. One of her presents was a solo visit to see me in New York City. I was excited to have this time with Shannon, who was the only member of her generation in our family.
But three weeks before her scheduled arrival, my brother called to tell me Shannon was dead. She had been killed by a bullet that dropped from the sky as she talked on her mobile phone in their fenced-in backyard.
After the initial shock and desperation, Otis and Lory, Shannon’s parents, worked with others to increase the penalty in Arizona for recklessly shooting a gun in the air. They also adopted twin boys. I became active in gun violence prevention in New York. Then Lory died of heart problems in 2008 and Otis of cancer in 2015. I became guardian of their 14-year-old twins and moved full-time to Arizona.
Gun violence has changed the entire frame of my life. There are also many small changes.
When the phone rings, I now prepare myself for the worst. I treasure all the adventures of two growing teenage boys. But that also makes me realize what is lost every time a child dies.