My daughter (and only child) Ryanne was a beautiful person through and through. She was incredibly bright, insightful, funny, friendly, curious, trustworthy and kind-hearted. She was nonjudgmental and treated everyone with respect. Ryanne was an honor student majoring in psychology because she wanted to become a therapist. While she was striving to achieve her dream of embarking on a lifetime career of helping others, she was cut down in her prime, just three months before she would have turned 20. Ryanne was the youngest of the five innocent students murdered at Northern Illinois University on February 14, 2008. Another 21 students were injured by the lone gunman before campus police arrived, only a couple of minutes after the shooting started.
On the 10-year anniversary of the NIU shooting, my husband and I were driving home from an event held there to commemorate that solemn occasion. We stopped along the way to have a bite to eat. That’s when we thought to turn our phones back on and found out the news that a couple of hours earlier, a shooting had taken place at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It certainly wasn’t the first mass shooting since our daughter’s murder nor will it be the last. And just like every other time, we felt instantly heartsick and were unable to stop the tears of sorrow and frustration from spilling over.
My life is utterly different from what it was when I still had my daughter. I spend every waking moment missing Ryanne and the way she made every ordinary, taken-for-granted thing more vibrant, interesting and delight-filled. My life now consists of doing whatever I can to try to prevent what happened to her from happening to others. It’s all I can think of to honor Ryanne’s memory with meaningful action.