I had just started my shift volunteering at a local community arts festival with Moms Demand Action. We were asking visitors to participate in an art installation and share their ideas of what a world without gun violence would look like. Suddenly, gunfire erupted just feet from our table. I threw myself to the floor, hiding under the table. I couldn’t see a way out of the building from where I was positioned and, in those moments, not knowing who was shooting or why, I truly thought I was going to die.
It took a long time for me to identify myself as a survivor of gun violence. After all, I told myself, I didn’t lose a loved one to gun violence. I didn’t get shot. I’m okay. But living through an act of gun violence has changed the way I walk through this world. Those moments of being crouched on the floor enter my mind at some point every single day, and they probably will for the rest of my life. I hug my kids a little tighter. I find myself a little more alert in crowded places. I survey the people around me differently. I have a new appreciation for security checkpoints. I have a new sensitivity for the trauma that many people have to live through daily.
I’m continuing my work with Moms Demand Action with a new perspective. Gun violence affects everyone, and now is the time for us to take control of this epidemic. No one should have to identify as a gun violence survivor.