My life has been touched many times by gun violence.
I started exhibiting depression and harboring suicidal thoughts around age 11, but my father’s collection of firearms were never an option for me. He believed in safe storage and kept them locked away. I don’t know where he kept the key, but if I’d had access to a firearm in middle school, I wouldn’t be alive today.
When I was in high school, I lost a close friend to gun suicide exactly one year before the Virginia Tech massacre. Each year, as Virginia mourns those victims, Sam’s friends revisit our trauma of losing him. For years, depression pulled me deep during the week surrounding that day, as I relived that loss over and over. Through my advocacy, though, I have been able to use my experience for good in Virginia.
I woke up the morning of my birthday in 2015 and turned on the news, as usual. I didn’t expect to watch two newspeople, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, be murdered on live television by a disgruntled former coworker with a gun. I celebrate my birthday with both of them on my mind and in my heart.