Survivors Speak!                  November 2021
The Barometer Reads 'Stormy But Changeable'
We’re not in the midst of a whirlwind — the winds aren’t whipping, and we feel steady in our RV  — but we are in the midst of unrelenting motion, and at least some “atmospheric pressure.” That’s because it’s November: Thanksgiving, giving season for nonprofits, #GivingTuesday at the end of the month, vigilantism in the news, a verdict from Wisconsin that left us in tears, one in Georgia that restored some hope, and the lead up to our 2022 “Honor with Action” tour. 

First things first. Our Annual Appeal is soon to come out, and it’s linked to very specific needs. One hundred dollars will buy us 40 gallons of diesel, and that will help us roll 400 miles. We need lots of gallons to make it across the country! That’s where we’ll be traveling all next year, visiting more than 20 cities in more than 20 states as we meet with other survivors and connect all of us together. We are eager — so eager  — to see our friends and make new ties. 

We are burning the fuel because we believe fervently in the power of banding together. We’ve been building our lives around that truth, survivors helping survivors, and survivors using their voices for change. And the name of our tour, “Honor with Action,” could not be more fitting. We borrowed it from Newtown Action Alliance. They, too, are facing a 10-year tragiversary in 2022. 

July 2022 marks a decade since our Jessi was murdered with a weapon of war. That wound will never heal, but it has spurred us to action and collaboration, and to connections that have been a source of hope. It’s one reason we want to bring the play Screen 9 to the United States, with the support of sponsors and friends. It will be gut-wrenching to hear, spoken on the stage, the words of all of us connected to the Aurora tragedy, but we’re willing, and it will honor Jessi and the 11 others who perished in the murderous attack. 

Can you support our effort to bring the play to the U.S.? 

We are fighting for a better tomorrow, after so many horrendous yesterdays. In the last two years, bloodshed has been particularly unrelenting. Teenagers toting AR-15s. Ghost guns. Political paralysis. We are doing all we can to rally against these terrible forces and inaction. 

In this newsletter, we share our usual roundup of the news, and of survivors’ voices. We new donations, and a challenge grant.

We are so very conscious that whatever we write here can be eclipsed by events in an instant. We are also aware that some of the grief caused by killers going free is related to lax laws that make a mockery of what self-defense really means, particularly in an era awash in guns. There were two fatal shootings in Aurora in one week this November. We will fight every day and every step of our way to hold accountable every single legislator in Colorado and elsewhere who puts the gun industry's interest over the lives of American families and all those we love.

Please join us, literally or metaphorically, on our continuing journey.

In solidarity, and with wishes for a peaceful and Happy Thanksgiving,

Sandy and Lonnie

Handling The Holidays
We know full well how difficult this time of year can be for survivors; it has been brutal for us. We're in the midst of completing a "toolkit" that addresses the challenges survivors face. Here's an excerpt:
  • For survivors, special days have a new meaning: once occasions to celebrate, they become days that awaken sadness and other negative feelings. Birthdays can call forth memories of past celebrations, and also bring about sadness for future ones that have been taken away too soon. Holiday gatherings can highlight the absence of the loved one who is no longer there. For years after our daughter Jessi's life was taken, we could not bring ourselves to use our longtime Christmas decorations. 

Our friend, Annika Dworet, whose son, Nick, was murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, said this: "Birthdays, Thanksgiving, holidays. They all hurt." 

You are not alone. Please reach out if you need a listening ear. 
Galvanizing Students To Prevent Shootings: An Interview With Nicole Hockley
Nicole Hockley, whose son, Dylan, was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, joined with several other parents who lost children to form Sandy Hook Promise. The organization’s goal is to end school shootings, and Nicole discusses its signature initiative, “Know the Signs.”
How did “Know the Signs” get started?
After the devastation of Universal Background Checks legislation failing to pass in Congress in 2013, I and my other co-founders turned our attention to researching every mass and school shooting to figure out how we could prevent these from happening to other families.
We found that in almost every case, the shooter displayed clear warning signs ahead of the attack. No one was teaching what these warning signs were nor how to intervene, so we developed the 
Know The Signs programs with experts in the fields of education, psychology, threat assessment and school safety. Since then, nearly 15 million students and adults have participated in Start With Hello and Say Something, the cornerstone Know the Signs programs.

Read more here

Suicide Prevention Comes to the Fore

Survivors Empowered applauds President Biden’s new strategies, announced on Nov. 2, to reduce military and veteran suicides. As the White House noted, suicide is a complex problem but it is preventable.

The high lethality of fireams means that suicide attempts by gun are fatal more than 85 percent of the time. Firearms are the most common method of suicide and account for two-thirds of all firearms deaths, according to the White House. During the pandemic, more people have become new gun owners and more unlocked guns than ever are in homes across the country.

That is why reducing access to firearms through safe storage and Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) is so important to preventing suicide. A gun secured with a cable or trigger lock, or secured in a locked gun safe, can save the life of a curious child or suicidal family member, especially when family members are visiting for holiday gatherings.

While much work remains to be done, we are encouraged that President Biden is working to reduce suicide among our veterans and military members and look forward to his continued efforts to reduce suicide and all forms of gun violence in our civilian population as well.

Survivors Add Voices to Major U.S. Supreme Court Case

On Valentine’s Day in 2018, Samantha Mayor left cards for her parents on the kitchen table before leaving for classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where the then-16-year-old was a junior. Hours later, she gathered with classmates in the corner of a classroom as a gunman began the rampage that would leave her wounded and take the lives of 17 people, including 14 students.

Mayor and six other young people share their stories in a 34-page amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of a New York state law that requires people to apply for a permit to carry a concealed weapon outside their homes demonstrate a need. The Supreme Court case was filed by the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association and two gun owners denied permits to be armed outside their homes for “self-defense.”

Read more here

What Survivors Are Saying
“It’s such a tragic moment that he’s no longer here with us, however he is here in spirit. I know holiday time is such a tragic moment and a joyful time to be with family and friends, so it’s important to me for the holidays because it was special to him and special to me as well,” Jalisa Ford, Mother of gun violence victim continues mission to bring joy to Chicago children

“We're sick and tired of the gun violence and the violence in Newburgh. It's not right. It's not fair. You take away from families. Not only does one person lose out, everybody loses out.” Rhonda Valentine Free, Newburgh mom continues to fight gun violence after daughter’s death

"My son would be 2 years old. I lost him. He died in my arms by the hands of three teenagers that wanted to carry guns, break into homes, steal a car and went out shooting." Sharletta Evans, executive director of the Colorado Crime Survivors Network, Aurora community holds 'State of Emergency' meeting to address youth violence

“Doing this work, and being able to help the community that I grew up in, the community that I’m from, and understanding the things that we have and the things that we don’t have, and watching the things that we used to have to keep us busy disappear, makes me passionate about my job,” Ingram Bell, 'I’m a survivor': Greensboro woman passionate about fighting gun violence
In the News
  • A Wall Street Journal article details how too many of the states with red-flag laws have taken very few guns away from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others. 
  • Gun owners in Colorado are now required to report the theft or loss of their weapons or face fines and the possibility of being charged with a misdemeanor. 
  • U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, who represents Boulder, Colorado, introduced legislation that would prevent someone from legally buying a gun if they have been convicted of a violent crime in the previous five years.
  • The Missouri Independent chronicles how the state's repeal of gun-control laws (including a permitting requirement for gun ownership), coupled with laws shielding people who use deadly force in the name of self-defense, has led to more gun deaths. 
  • An annual Thanksgiving Day flag football game doubles as a charity event for gun-violence survivors and their families.  
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 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.
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