Faces of Courage: Missy Jenkins Smith

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My name is Missy Jenkins Smith. I am paralyzed from the chest down. I was shot in the 1997 Heath High School Shooting. My memory of that day is sharp; it’s sharp because I am reminded of it every single day— when I can’t stand face to face with my husband to give him a kiss or when I can’t when I can’t get dressed or go to the bathroom or get in my car the way “normal” people do or when I can’t go running to my two young boys when they call for their mama. On a chilly December morning, I was … [Read more...]

My Scars Should Be My Past, Not Your Future

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By Antonius Wiriadjaja July 5, 2013, the day after Independence Day, I was a block from my Brooklyn apartment, children played while adults enjoyed the day off. I was enjoying the day too as I walked towards the subway. Suddenly, I thought I heard fireworks. Then I smelled the stench of gunpowder and burnt flesh. I looked down, blood was pouring out of chest. The pain was incredible. The intended target was a pregnant woman. She was walking in front of me. I didn’t know her. I didn’t know … [Read more...]

I Am Living Proof: Lax Laws Leave Us All Vulnerable

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My name is Diana Barker. I am 74 years old. I live in Kingwood, Texas. 32 years ago, my husband, Paul, and I moved to the United States from increasingly violent South Africa. We wanted to raise our children in a safe place. We became American citizens in 1996. We have two married sons, Matthew and Richard, who with their wives gave us four wonderful grandchildren. I am anybody’s mother and grandmother. I am someone who watched the news and felt sad about each horrible gun tragedy reported, … [Read more...]

I was a PTA mom. I was soccer mom. Now, I am the mom of a murdered son.

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By Jeanette Richardson I am a PTA mom, a soccer mom, and had always thought of myself as ordinary in the best possible way. New Year’s Eve, 2004, my 18 year-old son, Patrick kissed me and told me he loved me. I gave him a half hug and said, “Happy New Year.” I took a glance as he walked away and thought, “I am so lucky.” And I am lucky to be Patrick Wyatt McKinley’s mom. Patrick was the oldest of my then three (now four) beautiful sons. His brothers Hayden, 13, and Jake, 10, … [Read more...]

Mom Recalls Uncle’s Shooting and Killer’s Light Sentence: “As usual, the criminal had more rights than the victim.”

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By Tara Russo There was before and after. Before, at the age of 9, there were school activities, recreational sports and church. After, there was my uncle’s murder all over the local news. November 23, 1983, was the day before Thanksgiving and my parents were expecting a full house. My mom was busy in the kitchen and my dad and I were playing in the living room. When the phone rang, my dad picked it up jovially, but quickly his face went ashen and he turned away from us. Something was … [Read more...]

Longing for Memories That Will Never Be

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By Cristina Lafferty Hassinger, daughter of Dawn Hochsprung I was grocery shopping with my two youngest children when I got the call from my sister. Erica was crying so hard I could barely understand her. “There’s been a shooting at Mom’s school,” she told me. As I rushed out of the store, I was shaking so badly that strangers forced me to sit down in the parking lot. I didn’t know it then, but that was the first of many times I would be paralyzed by grief over the loss of my mom. Our … [Read more...]

Fatherhood Interrupted: Annette Valentin Shares Story of Her Son, Lee, Who was Killed Before His First Daughter’s Birth

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On July 29, 2006, my son Lee was shot leaving a pizza parlor in Irvington, New Jersey. He was 21-years-old and handsome, with long dreads. We had been expecting him home to discuss details of the baby shower planned for the daughter he was to have, but never to hold. Witnesses were afraid to come forward to share details of what they saw. I can’t blame them. I believe Lee knew his killers. Of the young men on the scene that night, two have since been killed by gunfire. The third is in prison … [Read more...]