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Kai Ellis

In memory of My father, Jerry Hansen

My first memory of my father that I can date is November 1963.

Despite the fact that he and my mother were going through an acrimonious divorce, I will always remember him kneeling down to tell 6-year-old me and my 5-year old sister that we had to be good because mommy was so upset about what had happened to the president.

It is ironic that my memories of him should be bookended by gun violence.

A little over six years later, on January 14, 1970, my always 33-year-old father picked up a young hitchhiker in California. After buying the young man dinner, they decided to rest for the night in a Yuma, Arizona, rest stop. That is where the hitchhiker sat awake for hours contemplating how to get the $92 he knew my father had in his wallet.

He choose to use the gun he had stolen from under the seat of a car in a Missouri car wash, shooting my father in the head five times.

I will never forget the night my uncle called to tell us that my father’s body had been found and the confusion of the next days and the year before the murderer turned himself in. That confusion still sits in my mind, wondering how things would have been different “but for.”

I can’t even say how my life was changed by my father’s murder; in so many ways I feel it has defined my life, my relationships, and the feelings that come back to me every time I hear of another shooting and go back and feel those feelings I felt that night 49 years ago. My sister and me clinging to each other, knowing before we knew that something truly awful had happened.

My father was a father, a friend, a son and brother, he was an uncle and a recording engineer.

I remember he had a good sense of humor and often wonder what he thought of his two silly preteen daughters and what he would think of the women we have become.

I miss him always and know that had that young man not had that gun, he would not have killed my father, and my world would be a different place.

Reacting shows support for gun violence survivors.