Survivors Speak!                  July 2021
Building from Heartbreak, and Reaching Out

Nine years ago today, our daughter, Jessi, was killed in the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater massacre. Our lives have a before and after, as we know so many of you understand in the deepest way.

We started Survivors Empowered so that we could take our pain and turn it into purpose. As we meet this tragiversary and plan for, in 2022, the 10th-year tragiversaries of both the Aurora and Sandy Hook shootings, we feel comforted that we’ve been able to lend support to so many people who also have experienced traumatic loss brought about by guns.

We are back in our RV, and traveling the country again. We pray that we will not have another outbreak of violence, especially during the heat of summer. This has been a year of relentless killings, and it breaks our hearts. 

But our spirits are not broken.

We’re going to spend some more time in Washington, D.C, we’re going to work with every like-minded person and group we can enlist, and we’re going to partner with and turn to the insiders we’ve been privileged to meet and look to them to be as relentless as the onslaught of bullets.

Last month, we let you know about Screen 9, a play inspired by the Aurora killings. We are hoping to book our trip to see the Edinburgh premiere. We hope as well that in the next year, Screen 9 will cross the Atlantic to the United States, giving you a chance to see it. 

We’re doing our usual roundup of news in this newsletter, and we’re adding an appeal. We are starting a year-long campaign to help support a variety of efforts to help survivors and decrease the number of people who join our ranks.

Please take a look, and consider what particular efforts you’d most like to support, and if you have additional suggestions, please let us know! We are all ears — with open hearts and helping hands. 

We are always in solidarity — and today, in memory and grief,

Sandy and Lonnie

Remembering the 12 Lives Taken in Aurora

The 7/20 Memorial in Aurora, Colorado

Jonathan Blunk, 26

Alexander J. Boik, 18

Jesse Childress, 29

Gordon Cowden, 51

Jessica Ghawi (Redfield), 24

John Larimer, 27

Micayla Medek, 23

Matt McQuinn, 27

Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6

Alex Sullivan, 27

Alexander C. Teves, 24

Rebecca Ann Wingo, 32

More information on the victims can be found 

Counting Down: We launch a year-long campaign of commemoration and action

This year we are counting down the days to a full decade without our daughter — nearly a decade of supporting survivors and combating the scourge of gun violence.

These are some highlights of what we’ve done during the last nine years:

  • Gone to 17 mass shooting sites and traveled more than 150,000 miles to stand with fellow survivors;

  • Founded Survivors Empowered Inc., and disseminated as widely as possible its message of hope, help and a commitment to reduce gun violence;

  • Testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee about the impact of gun violence;

  • Given interviews about gun violence and what survivors experience to a host of news organizations, with major features being aired by Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric, Lisa Ling and others;

  • Met with White House officials to press for sensible gun safety measures while continuing to lead a group of activists engaged in further discussions with the Biden administration;

  • Teamed with other groups to engage in advocacy work on state and national levels;

  • Built partnerships regionally to support survivors across the country, recently after the King Soopers massacre in Boulder, Colorado, in March; 

  • Supported the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a devastating piece of legislation that gives the gun industry broad immunity from lawsuits;

  • With partners, started a new mindfulness meditation certificate program at the University of California, San Diego, to make this means of coping with trauma more widely available to survivors;

  • Used the arts, and helped people in the arts, spread important messages; and 

  • Written a book about gun violence, with another book planned. 

We hope you will join us in a 12-month memorial to our girl and the many other victims with a monthly investment. Here is what your support can do: 

  • Fund scholarships for students in the Mindfulness (MBSR) Program. 
  • Pay for additional teachers and lecturers in mindfulness. 
  • Keep us on the road by helping with RV expenses. 
  • Help underwrite this newsletter and other communications. 
  • Help expand our oral history work. 
  • Bring Screen 9 to the United States for performances. 
  • Offer a group of survivors free tickets to Screen 9
  • Support more video and mini-documentary productions. 
  • Provide seed money for regional support centers and training. 
  • Contribute to an in-person gathering next year. 
  • Expand support services and groups for survivors. 
  • Enable travel, including international travel, to spread the word. 
We will make more specific requests as the year unrolls. It would be a great boon if you would consider a regular gift, even if very small, as soon as you are able. Monthly contributions help us anticipate what we can do during the year, and we are committed to doing a LOT. 

Thank you for traveling this road with us, and helping us to help each other.
The Debut of Screen 9 is Just Weeks Away

We are hoping that Scotland will lift COVID-19 restrictions so we can travel to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh in August, when Screen 9, a play inspired by the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting, will premier.  

We wrote last month about Kate Barton’s one-act play, which draws from the words of people associated with the shooting, which happened on July 20, 2012, and took the lives of 12 people, including our daughter, Jessi. Another 70 people were injured and hundreds more, including us, traumatized. 

See our earlier story about Screen 9 here

In the News

In the shadow of the Capitol, gunshots caused fans and players to flee, and others to reflect on rampant gun violence.

New York's Governor Cuomo declared a state of emergency in the wake of skyrocketing gun violence, with more than 50 shootings in the state over the July 4th weekend alone, and a 40% increase of shootings in major New York cities since the same time in 2019. He is proposing a package of sweeping and broad investments coordinated by a new Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

Meeting with big city mayors and police chiefs, talking about both anti-crime measures and police reform, President Biden recognizes the urgency of tackling gun violence as numbers continue to rise.

Published in October 2019, Tragedy in Aurora: The Culture of Mass Shootings in America, is Tom Diaz's account of the death of Lonnie and Sandy Phillips' daughter, Jessi, and the political polarization and stagnation behind the country's failure to enact common-sense policies to stem gun violence. 

The book can be found on Amazon here.  

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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