“Has your life been impacted by gun violence?”
The question stopped me. I’d been filling out an online form to send my condolences to the staff at WDBJ, the news station where Alison Parker and Adam Ward worked when they were killed at the hands of a gunman on August 26. I did’t expect a question like that. But there it was.
My cursor hovered over the No button and I almost clicked it without thinking. But then, I remembered Leslie.
Around 5:30 a.m. on September 8, 1998, a phone call from my boss awakened me. He needed me to head in to work early to open the office because Leslie, our shipping clerk, wouldn’t be in that day. He solemnly explained: he couldn’t open the office for her because he was driving to the hospital to see her. Leslie had been shot.
All these years later, I can still picture Leslie walking down the hall each morning, saying hello to everyone as she delivered our mail. We had a running joke, me and Leslie. Unlike her, I wasn’t a morning person. As she passed my office door, she loved to call out, as loudly as she could, “GOOD MORNING, COLLEEEEEEEEEEN!” the smile on her face bright enough to challenge the sun. She took special pleasure in “helping” me wake up every day. I’d always grumble a stilted greeting back to her and then sullenly tuck back into my coffee. It was our ritual. My work days rarely began without Leslie’s cheerful greeting.
A few days before the shooting, Leslie shared some news with a few of us, her work buddies. We gathered in the shipping room during a break, resting our coffee cups on the paper cutter as she divulged her secret: she was dating a younger guy. He was handsome and in his 20s. The surprise there was that she was a long-single gal in her early 40s. I’d never know her to date before.
She glowed while recounting the details of their quick courtship. Within a few weeks of meeting, they’d moved in together. But what Leslie didn’t mention was that her new guy suffered from PTSD after a stint in the service. And, while he took medication for it and regularly saw a counselor at the VA hospital, he’d stopped doing both since they got together. She also didn’t mention that he owned a gun.
On the night of September 7, as we were leaving work, Leslie asked me for marketing advice for an online business she planned to start. She spoke excitedly about her new side project. And she said she was meeting her boyfriend after work to attend a family picnic. She was happy. She was full of life. She was looking forward to the future.
I don’t remember learning the exact details of what happened but sometime in the very early morning hours of September 8, Leslie’s new boyfriend shot her twice, at point blank range, in the head. She died a few days later from her traumatic wounds. Her cheerful morning greeting would never again be heard in our office hallways. It was replaced by the quiet sobs of her coworkers who were stunned into disbelief.
I don’t talk about Leslie much any more. But every fall, when the anniversary of her death comes around, I think about her. I wonder what she’d be doing now if her life hadn’t been cut short. I imagine how successful her online business could have been. And I yearn for the chance to jokingly grumble at her one more time.
So, yes. My life has been impacted by gun violence. I had to click the Yes button yesterday. And in America, where 88 people die of gun violence EVERY DAY, more and more family members, friends, and coworkers have to click the Yes button to that unexpected question: “Has your life been impacted by gun violence?”
As moms, we have a vested interest in the issue of gun violence. Did you know:
American children are 14 times as likely to die from guns as children in other developed countries, according to David Hemenway, a Harvard professor and author of an excellent book on firearm safety.”
– Source: Kristof: Lessons from the Virgina Shooting
What can we do about this? And, more specifically, what am I going to do about this? How can I help stop gun violence? I’ve been a supporter of Moms Demand Action online for a while now. I’ve liked and shared their posts. I’ve read their articles and emailed them to friends. I’ve emailed and called my representatives in Congress. I’ve also donated to Sandy Hook Promise and joined Americans for Responsible Solutions. Getting more involved than that was always on my to do list but, life gets busy. It stays busy. And I haven’t made my involvement in this movement a priority. But in my heart I know: sharing data on Facebook is not enough. Slactivism won’t solve this problem.
As Moms Demand Action San Antonio member Jamie Ford wrote today: “Lawmakers move when they know they can’t get around something. Right now they can get around us, because we are four or five people at an event. We need everybody. Please consider attending the next one. The US can fix this problem, we just have to mobilize the people that are the most impassioned by it. And that’s you. Be the change, y’all.”
I’ll be at the next Moms Demand Action event in September. I’ll continue to contact my representatives in Washington to let them know how I feel. And I’m volunteering to join their membership team to help build a big group of people who are passionate about implementing responsible gun solutions. I’m going to roll up my sleeves and get involved. If we don’t, who will? Will you join me?
What is Moms Demand Action?
Join Moms Demand Action San Antonio to learn about upcoming events and how you can get involved.
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What you can do today to take action and say ENOUGH to gun violence.