My dad was the kind of teacher who paid attention to the students who needed advice beyond textbooks. He made you feel like you could be something great.
One day on his way out of school, he was shot and killed in front of students. No one deserves to die that way, but it feels like an especially cruel joke when it happens to someone so good.
His death was in the newspaper and hundreds of people attended his services, but 20 years later I wondered if anyone still thought of him. I started asking for memories and photos because I needed to know what was left to know before it was gone for good. I even cold-contacted some people from his high school yearbook because I knew I’d regret it some day if I lost some crumb of him without having tried to get it. I put everything that I received together into a collection and shared it with everyone we knew. It was a beautiful experience that brought him back just a little bit. I tried to make it as light as possible so that he’d be remembered for all the happiness he brought us and not just for tragedy.
I’ve since used his story and my art to raise awareness of gun violence. I loved his sense of humor and I try to use it in my work, as a way to get people interested and keep his personality alive. I am grateful to the student activists from Parkland who (after 20 years of mourning) inspired me to use my family’s pain for good. I hope they keep fighting and that everyone who is a part of this movement keeps telling their stories so that there will be less of them to tell in the future.