Survivors Speak!                 November 2022

A Season of Love, Loss, Giving and New Horizons

For so many years, our Thanksgiving was celebrated before, during, or after our daughter Jessi’s birthday on Nov. 27. We loved the twinned joy and togetherness.

But since 2012, the end of this month has been fraught with loss as we remember our beautiful girl - and remember, looming before us, Dec. 14 and Sandy Hook’s heartbreak. 

After that day, we began our journey of seeking to comfort other survivors in the wake of Aurora and the horrendous crimes perpetrated against the 20 children and six staff members whose lives were taken at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

This year, we’ve been marking the last decade with our Honor with Action tour, making new friends, offering support to new survivors, and helping to amplify their voices in the halls of power, in the media, and everywhere else we can. But the bloodshed is coming in torrents.

Our calendar is increasingly pockmarked with tragedies. These last few weeks are flooding us all with grief and anger. On November 20, we were devastated to see the LGBTQ community, and Colorado, again murderously and traumatically assaulted. The accused gunman, who used an AR-15-style rifle, has been charged with murder and hate crimes. But why was he allowed to possess an assault-style weapon in the first place? We pose the question not only because we believe those guns have no place in the hands of non-military personnel, but also because of his own history, which includes his arrest in connection to a bomb threat. Red flag laws exist, but they also need to be enforced.

While we were still reeling from the trauma in Colorado Springs, more violence destroyed the lives of families in Chesapeake, Virginia. And there were other shootings, some taking the lives of children in acts of domestic violence, others taking bystanders on street corners and at sporting events and other gatherings.

The holiday season is fully upon us. We embrace you and feel along with you. You have helped give our lives purpose. We urge you all to maintain the sanctity of your homes by making sure that guests don’t cross your thresholds with firearms. We say more below. 

As we mark holidays, we’re also marking — and announcing! — some transitions. Mindfulness meditation has been such a core part of our lives for many years. (Read more about it in this issue’s profile of Catherine Cooper.) We want to share the peace, harmony and healing we’ve seen grow with our practice, and those of many close friends. To make that possible in a more expansive way, we’re relocating to Mexico, where we plan to be holding retreats, soaking in the sun, and making many more beautiful connections.

Survivors Empowered will continue, and we’ll be doing our part. So will Executive Director Penny Okamoto, who will keep the organization thriving with our small but dedicated team, and in collaboration with our allies. The communications — this newsletter — and the love will keep on coming.

We’ll be south of the border for most of the year, but not all of it. In fact, we’re thrilled to say that in June, we’ll be spending a week in Garrison, New York, as speakers and participants at the renowned Garrison Institute! Perhaps you can join us?

Giving Tuesday is today, and we are so thankful for all the support you’ve given us during our Honor with Action tour, now nearing its close. The gratitude we feel is about more than just one year, too. It’s about all the support and love you have shared with us for the last 10 years. You are dear to us. While next year will be different, it too will be action-packed and friend-rich, too — we hope and expect. 

With love, 

Sandy and Lonnie

Our Jessi, on November 27

She should be 35 today.

She should be waking up to messages from friends and family celebrating her special day. She should be making plans to be with the people she loves the most.

She should be shopping with her "birthday" money for something she doesn't need and can't afford.

She should be smiling and laughing and making jokes about getting "old."

She should be.

#missingmygirl   #jessicaredfield   #jessicaghawi   #endgunviolence
Survivor Uses Mindfulness To Heal From Trauma

Even with more than one life-altering and traumatic “Before and After,” Catherine Cooper has been able to find peace. 

She has faced multiple traumas, including a terrorist bombing that took place when she was a block away and a shooting in the Colorado school where she taught and her son was a student. The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness meditation programs launched by Survivors Empowered have aided her road to wellness. 

Cooper still has panic attacks, nightmares and days when she feels powerless, but the techniques she learned in those programs lessen the impact of those moments and help her “return to the here and now instead of swimming in the trauma memories.” 

“It’s helped me to be a better mom, a better teacher. It’s helped me to be better at so many things because it’s pulled me out of the negative and I’ve forced myself to live in that gratitude, which has not been my nature for a very long time,” she said. 

Read more here. 

This Side Dish Not Wanted

Holiday parties are upon us and many people are inviting family members, old friends, and new faces to come into their homes. You might be, too. 

Some of your guests might want to bring their firearms with them. But many survivors of gun violence do not feel comfortable around firearms. As the host, you have the right to tell people that guns are not permitted in your home.

Sadly, the holidays are not free from gun violence. Last Thanksgiving, 88 people were injured by gunfire and 45 people were killed by gunfire, including 4 children under the age of 11. Those numbers do not include suicides by firearm.

Homeowners and renters have control over their premises. Firearms can be prohibited in private homes and locations. A short sentence in your invitation (“Firearms not permitted”) will let your guests — including “plus ones” — know that firearms are not welcome. A sign on your door will remind people that guns are prohibited on the premises. Hosts can tell guests to leave the premises for any reason, including bringing a gun into the home. Failure to leave can result in a trespassing violation or other charges.

Remind your guests that cars are not gun safes, and that guns should be left at home. 

Why should hosts be concerned about people bringing guns, whether carried concealed or open? It’s a matter of safety and feeling secure in one’s private space.

It’s also a matter of rights. 

A host has the right to know when a firearm is brought into the home.

Parents have the right to know when a person is carrying a firearm around their children.

Parties also present some common risks. Alcohol is served at many holiday gatherings; guns and alcohol never mix.

There’s a liability issue, too. Most homeowners' insurance policies exclude coverage for criminal acts and intentional injury. Check with your insurance company.

And despite tropes peddled by the gun industry, armed people are bringing risk to your table. Many people are new gun owners who are not required to be trained. An armed, untrained novice can be dangerous.

Hosts are well within their rights to prohibit firearms on their premises and to ask the gun owner to leave. This holiday season, please celebrate safely and respectfully.

Help For Survivors
  • Survivors Empowered has a roster of dedicated trauma therapists who help survivors of gun violence heal from the aftermath. Visit our website for more information. 
  • We created, in collaboration with Giffords, a toolkit for survivors, available at in downloadable PDF form at our website
  • We continue to look for volunteers across the country who want to help build coalitions and work with survivors of gun violence in their states. If interested in supporting our efforts, please contact us here.
What Survivors Are Saying

“It’s horrible because it doesn’t stop. It doesn’t stop replaying when you leave the scene. It doesn’t stop hurting as much. It doesn’t stop, and it sucks because you really want it to. You just want that little bit of – that you had before all this.” Jessie Wilczewski, an employee at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, where the lives of six coworkers were taken in a shooting 


“I just know I got into mode, and I needed to save my family — and my family was at that time everybody in that room.” Richard Fierro, who tackled the gunman who took the lives of five people at an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs 

"Mike's cry was so deep it was like coming from his soul. It was like a cry I'd never heard before in my life. ... I can't grab him and pull him to me and hug him because he's hurt. I can't move him. It was like he was alone in that moment." Brenda Hollins, whose son, Mike Hollins, survived the shooting that took the lives of three University of Virginia football players

"We are creating our own network. We are creating our own space. We are contributing to betterment, to healing, to peace. We are transforming the way society responds to families of murdered victims.” Clementina Chery, who founded the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute to honor her son, whose life was taken in 1993  

“You can’t wait to care until it happens to you. … At the rate that gun violence is happening now, everyone is going to know somebody, everybody is going to have gun violence touch them.” Mia Tretta, who has become active in gun violence prevention since surviving a school shooting

In The News

Oregon voters approved a ballot measure that requires people buying guns to first obtain a permit through a process that requires safety training. Measure 114 also bans magazines holding more than 10 rounds. 

Legislators in Colorado form a new
Gun Violence Prevention Caucus whose members will produce legislation to reduce gun violence.

In the wake of the shooting at an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs, the Colorado Sun Times writes about the
increase in mass shootings that have occurred in Colorado state.

The Washington Post asks
"what if gun owners had to pass a test" similar to the one in the Czech Republic, where permitting requirements  for prospective buyers include a multiple-choice exam.

Giffords profiles three gun violence-prevention workers and their
emotionally draining efforts to reduce shootings in their communities. 

About one-third of parents surveyed by the Pew Research Center said they were
very worried or extremely worried about a shooting at their children’s schools.

Support the Honor With Action Tour

It's the end of November and Giving Tuesday. We hope you'll be able to support us. (Whenever you support us, we appreciate it!)  In the meantime, we are still traveling, and we are still offering Honor with Action items.

We've got beautiful hats, T-shirts and other apparel, as well as tote bags, mugs and notecards, available to all via our online Bonfire store. Check out our "Only in America" shirt, with images of three assault weapons.

We will give out pens and notepads as complimentary "swag" at upcoming stops.

Follow Us on Social Media
Copyright © 2022 Survivors Empowered Inc., All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Survivors Empowered Inc. · 1315 S Clayton St., Suite 300 · Denver, Colorado 80210-2456 · USA

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp