When Ricky was 4 years old, we went pier fishing at midnight in Florida (he had begged to come along). The two of us sat on a pier bench, cuddling up, watching the stars, listening to the waves, watching the other fishermen catch some fish, patiently waiting. Then, as the sun was rising, I got a jolt on my line. Ricky was ecstatic and excited watching me catch a big fish (not), with his eyes big as plates. A catfish flew in and was jumping all over the dock. Desperate to save my catch, I stepped on it and, to my horror, the fish’s fin impaled my foot — the tip protruding out on the other side of my foot. Ricky screamed in delight to the other fishermen, “Mommy caught a fish with her foot!” I spent the rest of my time in bed, heavily medicated and in pain. The image of his delight, how proud he was of mom still makes me laugh, and my heart melts all at once.
Life was simple then. I was a very private, shy citizen with few friends and a niece in Florida. My two boys were growing up. Like all moms, I learned on the job, and I had tried my best. I was proud of them. But life goes on and Ricky, at age 24, said he was moving out. His friends were also moving to the same area. Two months later, on August 3, 2012, he was shot multiple times while parking. We had plans to visit his cousin in Florida six days later. We had plans to fish on that same pier of our past again. We were going to make more memories. Part of my heart died that day and, from the ashes of his death, a new me was born.
I, like all moms in the world, was going to seek justice — my number one job. I am no longer the woman that shies away from strangers. I have something to say, and mine is the voice of a young man who loved and was loved, who laughed, told jokes, played sports, loved cooking and travel, projects and dreams. I had to know why a man killed another he didn’t even know with an illegal gun. I was going to act on it to prevent others from joining our club.
My journey has taken me to places I don’t recognize as fair to children and citizens, where I realized there is no black or white but many in-betweens, where we must accept our responsibility for seeking justice and to stop gun violence. Ricky lived a happy life, and my soul is renewed each time I see a tiny piece of evidence that, through my efforts, Ricky lives.