Survivors Speak!                  May 2022
A Month Steeped in Tragedy

We write to you at the end of a month riven with pain and anger.

We are still in Uvalde, Texas, the site of the second-worst school shooting in American history. Nearly ten years ago, when our daughter Jessi was slaughtered in Aurora, Colorado, we began our own “before and after,” and started traveling the road that has taken us to more than 20 mass shootings, beginning with  Newtown, Connecticut, the site of the only school shooting even deadlier than Uvalde.

What a ghastly bookending of grief, and a terrible underscoring of the failure to pass federal gun violence prevention legislation and stop more tragedies.

To mark nearly a decade since Jessi was killed, we embarked on our “Honor with Action" 2022 tour earlier this year, intending to forge new friendships and alliances and help strengthen and give voice to the ever-growing ranks of survivors. This month, we were warmly embraced in Atlanta, Georgia, and then again in Baltimore, Maryland, where we co-sponsored a successful and uplifting  event, “Centering Survivors; Honoring Lived Experience in Gun Violence Policy.”

When we got the horrendous news of Buffalo’s racially motivated killing while still in Maryland, we immediately changed our route and headed north in our rig. We had hardly been there five days when the news about Uvalde broke. 

We are steeped in the tragedy here and in Buffalo, both perpetrated by 18-year-olds armed with weapons of war. It is not easy to be in the vortex of so much heartache, but this is where we’ve committed to be. And maybe, just maybe, there are more people today than a month ago who are saying they’re not going to take any more excuses or deflections by public officials (sometimes including police, the prototypical “good guys with guns”) who are failing us all.

As we do every month, we share with you some voices of survivors, and some news stories. We also highlight  ATF and FBI studies that debunk the Orwellian argument made by opponents of gun reform — that somehow more guns equals less gun violence. For shame. They make these arguments while we all inhabit a landscape where children are, for the first time ever, more likely to die by gun violence than in car accidents.

We were called upon by news media from across the country and around the world  these last weeks. We tried to balance the need and desire to educate with a greater need — to be with Buffalo and Uvalde’s survivors, and offer comfort and whatever help we could give. We share some links to the coverage, including a story about the toolkit we developed in collaboration with Giffords.

That kit was made for times like these, when those unfortunate families who have joined the ranks of survivors can benefit from our hard-earned experience.

Finally, we thank so many of you for reaching out to us with words of support, and with donations that helped fuel our tank as we detoured to Buffalo, and then supported our trip to Texas. We will soon be returning to Buffalo, and our East Coast stops. We are very grateful for the community of support that surrounds us. We extend our deepest condolences to the new survivors. 

With love, and in sorrow,
Sandy and Lonnie

Rallying to Aid Buffalo and Uvalde Survivors

Suspending our national tour to support the survivors of the deadly shootings in Buffalo on May 14 and Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, we carried a simple message: that the future of a gun violence survivor is forever altered but does not have to be forever barren.

“I know that they don’t want to take another breath — that they wish they were dead instead of their child because I felt that way,” Sandy said during an interview for PBS Newshour in Uvalde. “You will find joy again. It’s not the same joy you thought you’d have and it’s always different, but you will find joy again.”

That message, and the urgency of the need for reforms, was hammered home in a series of interviews with newspapers and radio and television stations, both in the U.S. and overseas. Some of the interviews are below; others can be found at

She Lost Daughter In Mass Shooting: Here's What She Will Tell Parents in Uvalde

How To Change 'Nothing Will Change'

A Family Brings Message of Hope To Buffalo

Mass Shooting Victim's Parents Develop 'Survivor's Toolkit' 

In addition, the public radio show This American Life released "The Parents Step In," which highlights parents who have been become active in gun-violence prevention after their children's lives are taken. The show features Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, and Lenny Pozner, whose son Noah's life was taken at Sandy Hook. 

What Buffalo, Uvalde Survivors Are Saying
“I’ll have this in my head for the rest of my life. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go into a grocery store or a store." Jennifer Tookes, who survived the shooting at a Buffalo supermarket on May 14

“How do we tell him (that) the love of his life, his primary caretaker, the person who kept him alive the last eight years, how do we tell him that she’s gone?" Garnell Whitfield, on telling his father that the life of his mother, Ruth Whitfield, had been taken during the Buffalo shooting

"That's all you heard was firing, constant firing -- firing and firing and firing," Jerome Bridges, who survived the Buffalo shooting

"We didn't care about us. We wanted to storm the building. We were saying, 'Let's go' because that is how worried we were, and we wanted to get our babies out." Jacinto Cazares, whose daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, had her life taken at Robb Elementary School on May 24

"They weren't just her students. Those were her kids, and she put her life on the line, she lost her life to protect them. That's the type of person she was." John Martinez, whose aunt, Irma Garcia, was one of two teachers whose lives were taken at Robb Elementary School

“Hey Jackie, I love and miss you so much. It will be so different without you. I planned to have a lot of sleepovers with you. Rest in Peace Jackie.” The message written by fourth-grader Caitlyne Gonzalez on a cross honoring her classmate, Jacklyn Cazares
More Guns = More Gun Violence
Four days after 10 people had their lives taken in a racially motivated shooting at a Buffalo supermarket on May 14, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed one half of the deadly equation: gun manufacturing has soared.
A day before a gunman took the lives of 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, an FBI report confirmed the other: so have active-shooter incidents.

Read more here
Honor With Action Tour Stops In Atlanta, Baltimore
We thank our partners who convened survivors at two wonderful events in May.

In Atlanta, Cassandra Green organized the Stop the Violence Forum. Melvennia Clarke was one of the many speakers with loved ones taken; her son was killed by gang violence and her sister by domestic violence. 

In Baltimore, at the "Centering Survivors: Honoring Lived Experience in Gun Violence Policy" event we co-sponsored with the University of Maryland's Rebuild Overcome and Rise Center (ROAR), we were surrounded by old and new friends.

One of the highlights was reuniting with Professor Daniel Webster, who heads the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy Research. Not even 24 hours before we gathered, there were ten shootings in the city.

Shantay Jackson, director of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, referred to the carnage in her opening remarks. Local television reporter Barry Simms covered the event and the station came out to our rig for some additional perspective. We also submitted an op--ed to the Baltimore Sun

At the end of the event, an artist, Drawnversation's Brandon Black, produced a remarkable drawing summarizing the event. This link leads to a video that shows Black's work. 

Many thanks to Lydia Watts and all her colleagues at ROAR. We are eager to meet again with our friends in Georgia and Maryland.
Court Upholds NY Right To Sue Gun Companies
A federal court upheld a New York State law that allows the state and local governments to bring "public nuisance" civil lawsuits against gun manufacturers and sellers.

New York's law, approved in July 2021, requires that gun manufacturers and dealers who do business in the state "establish and utilize reasonable controls and procedures to prevent its qualified products from being possessed, used, marketed or sold unlawfully." Those that "recklessly create, maintain or contribute" to conditions that endanger public health and safety can be sued. 

Read more here
In The News
The Washington Post chronicles the long-lasting trauma experienced by people who have survived school shootings. 

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called for raising to 21 from 18 the age at which people can legally purchase AR-15-style weapons like the one used by an 18-year-old to take the lives of 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo on May 14. 

Protesters rallied outside a National Rifle Association convention that opened in Houston, Texas, three days after a gunman took the lives of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, 280 miles away. 

Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords,  compiled a roundup of recent polling showing strong support for gun reforms, including in battleground states. 

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a state ban on "ghost guns," untraceable firearms made from parts that buyers assemble. 
Calling All Artists!

Would you be willing to donate a piece of your lovely artwork for an auction to benefit Survivors Empowered? This July, when we are in Denver, we will host an artwork display and would be so grateful if you would consider donating a piece of your work to be auctioned. Email for more information. Thank you!
Support the Honor With Action Tour

Want to feel part of the action as we travel the country? Want to wear your feelings on your chest?

We've got beautiful hats, T-shirts and other apparel, as well as  tote bags, mugs and notecards, that are available to all via our online Bonfire store. We also have a new shirt with an "Only in America" message...and images of three assault weapons.

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

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.
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