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Rachel Dawson

On December 9, 2017, my world was forever changed. Unknown to me, my husband had purchased a semi-automatic shotgun at Cabela’s the day before he used it to shoot our 9-year-old son, Luke, our 5-year-old daughter, Bree, and then himself. It was a simple, no-questions-asked errand to obtain a murder weapon.

I knew something was off that morning with him, but as he carried our son into our daughter’s room, my alarm bells were going off. I calmly grabbed his hand and asked him to talk to me; he pushed me against the wall, out of the room, and barred the door shut (police found that he had used a baseball bat wedged between the door and my daughter’s bunk bed). Trying not to scare our kids, I yelled to Luke that we were running late to the 5K we were supposed to go run together, and that he needed to hurry. Immediately I heard three gunshots and then smelled gunpowder.

I knew it was over, and my children were dead. My husband was a surgeon, and I knew he would leave no chance of them surviving. But I went to look for a phone to call 911 because I needed someone there with me; I was in shock and couldn’t really process the gravity of what was going on. I never had fear for my own life, as I knew my life, my babies, were gone. I just wanted to be taken from the situation like it had never happened.

Some time while I was looking for the phone, my husband came out of the room and shot himself in our bedroom. Tragically, when I was asked if the kids had a pulse, I went in to my daughter’s room to check (not remembering that I had just been barred out). I saw what no one, especially a mother, should see. My beautiful babies were disfigured, lifeless and had no pulse.

Through a lot of therapy, running, God and signs from Heaven, I am still here and sharing my story as awareness for domestic abuse (it’s not always physical before it’s deadly) and, more recently, for gun sense laws. Luke and Bree’s lives will not be lost in vain. Our story will make a difference, and I continue my one life as three, living with them in spirit. ??

Reacting shows support for gun violence survivors.