I still stumble over the words. Frankly, I don’t think “my sister was shot in Las Vegas” will ever roll easily off my tongue. I never thought I’d be happy to say she was considered a low-priority gunshot victim, but this is America. The reality is we’re incredibly lucky we don’t have an empty seat at our table for the holidays; my nieces are fortunate to still have their mother. We may never be the same, but it could’ve been so much worse.
I remember everything about that night: getting home from watching the Seahawks beat the Colts as a birthday gift from one of my best friends, getting ready for bed, when my sister Katelyn called. My phone wasn’t working, but she kept calling, and I started to panic. We finally connected, and through her sobbing I heard her say “Alicia was shot! Alicia was shot!” I went numb. I couldn’t believe what she said and tried my best to console her. I told her that if Alicia were going to die, she likely wouldn’t have made it to the hospital. It was morbid but all I could think to say. While calling my mom, I checked Twitter, where I saw the raw footage: the screams, the chaos – and my sister was in the middle of it. My heart sank. I did my best to calm my mom down and arranged for us to fly to Vegas the next day.
Every driver in the city knew why we were there as soon as we plugged in the address of the hospital. Seeing Alicia lying motionless due to a gunshot wound in her back and surgery to check for organ damage made it real. I’ll never forget seeing her husband, Nick, for the first time. He’s a big, strong man, but he was broken in a way I can hardly describe. The blood-soaked shirt he used to stop Alicia’s bleeding was in a bag on the floor. He still had her blood dried on his hands.
The media coverage invariably ends, people move on, society seems to accept it, and the cycle continues. Not all of us have that luxury. Survivors live with their mental/physical scars forever. Friends and family are forever changed. And some are compelled to get involved and try to do whatever they can to stop others from experiencing such intense, visceral terror. We all have our “Enough” moment, where we decide we can’t continue to sit around and wait for change to occur; we have to make it happen. For me, being confronted with the very real possibility of losing my sister lit that fire.
I’ve shared our story with state and federal legislators, testified in support of bills, spoken at countless GVP meetings – not because I want to but because people need to understand the impact such atrocities carry for the rest of our lives. Please, never forget those stolen and those forever changed by gun violence.