Remembering gun violence survivors by Marc H. Morial
2/14/2020, 6 a.m.
On Jan. 8, 2011, I was performing my favorite duty as a congresswoman — meeting with my constituents — when it happened. In a matter of seconds, a gunman shot and killed six people, injured 12 others and shot me in the head outside a Safeway in Tucson, Ariz. I keep the memories of those we lost that day — 9-year- old Christina- Taylor Green, Dorothy Morris, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwan Stoddard, Gabe Zimmerman and Judge John Roll — close to my heart. And I will be forever bonded to my fellow survivors who will spend the rest of their lives dealing with injuries and trauma. — Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords
Sometimes, Cleopatra Pendleton walks to her closet and runs her hands over a sequined yellow dress. It was the dress her daughter Hadiya wore to her eighth-grade graduation luncheon.
“Sometimes, for just a moment, I imagine that I’m saving it for the children that she will never get a chance to have,” Ms. Pendleton says.
Hadiya was shot and killed seven years ago while standing in a Chicago park with friends after taking her final exams. Just a week earlier, she had marched with pride in President Obama’s 2013 inaugural parade.
Thirteen-year-old Malachi Hemphill accidentally shot himself in 2017 while playing with a gun his friend stole from a neighbor. The owner, who’d kept it in a console in his unlocked car, didn’t report it stolen and didn’t even notice it was missing.
“When (Malachi’s) heart stopped, so did ours,” says his mother, Shaniqua Stephens.
Jerri Mauldin Green has been affected by gun violence three times. She grew up hearing the tragic story of her grandparents’ murder-suicide when her motherwas only 6 years old. Her childhood best friend was murdered by the father of her children when the boys were only 2 years old and 4 years old. And just this year, a new friend she’d met at a leadership course was shot and killed in his home.
In honor of National Gun Violence Survivors week from Feb. 1 through 8, Everytown For Gun Safety is shared the stories of those whose lives have been forever changed by gun violence.
The National Urban League is proud to be a partner of Everytown, a coalition that includes parents, students, responsible gun owners, teachers, police officers, elected officials and social justice organizations working together to end gun violence and build safer communities.
National Gun Violence Survivors Week, which began last year, is focused on sharing and amplifying the stories of gun violence survivors who live with the impact of gun violence every day of the year. The week is observed in early February because this marks the approximate time that gun deaths in the United States surpass the number of gun deaths experienced by our peer countries in an entire calendar year.
Hundreds of survivors like Cleopatra, Shaniqua and Jerri, who have lost loved ones, along with those who have witnessed an act of gun violence, or been threatened or wounded with a gun, are sharing their stories on the Moments that Survive story wall.
Survivors and allies are amplifying their voices on social media using the hashtag #MomentsthatSurvive to represent the moments and memories that endure for survivors after experiencing gun violence.
There are more survivors than we might imagine. A shocking 58 percent of American adults have experienced gun violence or are close to someone who has. They are mothers like Tonjula Mason-Shelby, who felt that her reason for living was taken from her when her only child, Kimondra Mason, was gunned down.
They are women who found the courage to leave their abusers, like Laura Morris, who bears the scar of a gunshot wound on her shoulder.
They are daughters, like Khary Penebaker, whose mother Joyce took her own life with a gun when Khary was a child.
Their lives have been changed forever. Sharing their stories highlights the devastating human consequences of gun violence in America.
The writer is president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League.