Survivors Speak!                  December 2021
Increasing the Light

We are on the verge of a new year, past the winter solstice, with more light each day as the days grow longer. As we prepare for our 2022 Honor with Action tour, we are uplifted by that meteorological fact, and the wonderful response we’ve already gotten to our annual appeal!

We feel immense gratitude to recent donors who believe in our cause, and have given substantial contributions. Among them, two want to encourage others to give by providing matching donations. One is willing to match up to $10,000 in the New Year; the other $5000. If you're considering a donation to Survivors Empowered before the new year, your gift will be doubled because of their generosity. 

Support comes in many forms, of course, and we can’t say enough about how much we appreciate a host of allies. 

Those who have suffered from and are anguished by gun violence have been repeatedly retraumatized (with a great spike over the last two years) by escalating gun crimes, deaths and injuries. But we are not alone. We take comfort in the partnerships we have, and the shared brainstorming and actions we’re developing. We take comfort in YOU.

The Honor with Action tour will reflect this mutual aid and new efforts we’re planning for 2022. There’s something else rolling out, too; we and Giffords will be releasing a new toolkit for survivors. We are so eager to share it soon — perhaps close to Jan. 8, the day in 2011 when our friend Gabby Giffords'  life was irrevocably changed in a mass shooting that killed six people and injured 12 more.

Another cause for satisfaction: We’re looking forward to the start of a new mindfulness meditation class designed specifically for those affected by gun violence. Are you interested in joining? There’s more information about this free offering below, and here.

Speaking of information, this issue of our newsletter has its usual roundup of news and survivors’ voices, and a feature about Joseph Jaskolka, who was shot and paralyzed as the consequence of “celebratory gunfire” just after midnight on New Year’s Eve, 1999. 

We are grateful for the ability to get our message out, and use our voices to help reach other survivors in need and the public at large. We continue to publish opinion pieces in prominent outlets, and are regularly called upon as sources. Within the last few weeks, we have connected with groups and individuals affected by the school shooting  in Oxford, Michigan. 

But our access is built upon the horror of loss we experienced when our Jessi was murdered in a mass shooting nine years ago. We share with and rely upon our fellow survivors, and with every ounce of our energy, we are working to help avoid the same bitter reality for others.

We are resolved. We recognize the continuing toll of tragedies, but we are energized by our many friends and partners, and the path we see opening before us. As it is the dawn of a new year, we include in this issue some specific ideas for what all of us can do. We hope you will be able to join us at one of our many stops along the Honor with Action tour route! 

In solidarity, wishing you Happy New Year — and peace.

Sandy and Lonnie

"Celebratory Gunfire" Changed a Life Forever
Joe Jaskolka ended Dec. 31, 1998, as a healthy, athletic 11-year-old boy who played football, skated and rode his bicycle.

He began Jan. 1, 1999, paralyzed and unconscious, with doctors unsure if the Delaware youth would survive the bullet lodged in his brain.
Jaskolka’s life was altered in a moment by a centuries-old tradition in South Philadelphia: the firing of celebratory gunshots into the air at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

The bullet that tore through his skull when it descended that night turned his life into one filled with multiple surgeries and years of therapy so he could be independent. But it also spurred him and his father, Gregory Jaskolka, to become active in the battle against celebratory gunfire and the fight for other gun reforms.
“It’s an insane tradition,” said Joe. “The bullets are becoming deadlier, and what goes up must come down.”

Read more here
Holding Michigan Families Close

Since the Columbine school shootings in Colorado, more and more students have been exposed to gun violence, injury and death. We were devastated to learn of yet one more such tragedy in Oxford, Michigan, where four students had their lives taken when another student opened fire inside Oxford High School on Nov. 30. 

Within hours of the shootings, people within our network of friends and colleagues had reached out to the traumatized families. Therapists and peers were ready to speak with survivors, and since then, we have been in touch with the affected family members and others who witnessed or were affected by the rampage. 

This horrific event has highlighted the importance of safe gun storage. We are shocked and saddened that the parents of the 15-year-old boy accused of the attacks bought him a gun, and that the gun was apparently left unsecured in the family home.

His mother wrote to former President Donald Trump on her blog: “As a female and a Realtor, thank you for allowing my right to bear arms. Allowing me to be protected if I show a home to someone with bad intentions. Thank you for respecting that Amendment.” 

Statistics say the safest homes are those without guns. Just this week, a father killed his teenage daughter when he mistook her for an intruder. We must continue to counter the myth that guns make us safer. 

The Power of Mindfulness Meditation Offered To More Survivors
We are so excited to be offering a new free mindfulness meditation course specifically for survivors!

In collaboration with the University of San Diego's Center for Mindfulness, we are measuring the effects of mindfulness on family, friends and community members who have had a loved one taken; been wounded; or witnessed gun violence.

In this study, we will be offering Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses to explore different avenues for improving mental health and well-being. The eight-week course begins in early February, with each session running approximately two and a half hours.

Program activities include meditation, short talks, experiential exercises, group discussion and home practices. The emphasis of the program is on enhancing emotional resources and personal capacities.

For more information, and to sign up, click here.
Our New Year's 'Resolutions'
We don't usually create formal "resolutions" for ourselves, but we do have hopes and intentions for the new year. They may apply not only to us, but our allies.
  • We are determined to spend 2022 fully immersed in our "Honor with Action" tour, and we are eager to connect with you.
  • We know that calls and letters to people in power can change the conversation; we'll be engaged, and hope you will be, too. 
  • We understand that personal stories can move the public, and the public can move their "public servants," so we will continue collecting and distributing stories, as well as telling our own.
  • We understand so deeply the importance of peers reaching out to those  who have suffered unthinkable losses, and we are at the ready.
  • We know that we all need to change the conversation and the culture to help get out from under gun fetishization and gun violence. We are committed. 
Rolling Along: Keep Up with Us!

Want to feel part of the action even before we put our RV in "drive"?
We've got some beautiful hats, T-shirts and other apparel, as well as mugs and notecards, that are available to all via Bonfire, an online store. 

We will have pens and notepads available as complimentary "swag" at our upcoming stops, but perhaps you'd like to get in the swing of things sooner? Check out our Bonfire store

Our first stop is San Diego! We are partnering with San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention. Get ready for Feb. 19. More info to come soon. 

What Survivors Are Saying
"My life has been broken just like that. Never in my life will I feel this pain again." Ty Myre, whose brother Tate one of four students killed during a shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan on Nov. 30. 

“When my family is here supporting me, I’m okay, but it’s when they leave I fall apart.” Vickie Lane, whose husband, Lars Lane, was killed in a shooting at a Valley Transit Authority facility in San Jose, California, on May 26. 

"My life flashed before my face when I was laying there. I asked God to take my soul." Duane Cormier, who survived a
drive-by shooting in Baytown, Texas, on Dec. 12. 

"It's wonderful to have this many people come together to celebrate a miracle." The Rev. Jonathan Miller, celebrating the 16th birthday of Tyler Brown, who survived a shooting in October. 
In the News
The Washington Post writes about the record number of school shootings in 2021. 

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolfe
vetoed a bill that would have allowed gun owners to carry a concealed weapon without first obtaining a permit. 

A 16-year-old girl returning home was mistaken for an intruder and shot and killed by her father in Ohio. 

The federal Transportation Safety Administration announced that a record number of passengers brought guns to airports in 2021. 

Giffords examines the life-saving importance of safe-storage laws after a 15-year-old killed four students at Oxford High School in Michigan on Nov. 30. 

Local station KRQE reports on the lax enforcement of New Mexico's gun laws, including one requiring that people convicted on domestic violence charges relinquish their weapons. 
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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