Faces of Courage: Andrea Portes

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By Andrea Portes In 9th grade, I dated Dylan Gushard. He was amazing, but he was— as my girlfriends warned—from the ‘wrong side of the tracks.’ He wasn’t cool. My girlfriends pestered me to break up with him. I am ashamed to admit it, but I did. After the break-up, Dylan wrote me haikus and other poems. He left them in my locker. I ignored them. A year later, in the middle of the night, Dylan’s dad loaded a shotgun and shot Dylan, his sister Vanessa, and his mom, Judy. Then Dylan’s … [Read more...]

Faces of Courage: Joshua Stepakoff

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By Joshua Stepakoff In August of 1999, I was six years old and attending the North Valley Jewish Community Center Day Camp in Los Angeles. It was mid-morning, a sunny day, at this Community Center where I went five days a week, it was my home away from home. I loved being there. I was walking back from a game of Capture the Flag when I was faced with who I thought to be a construction worker. At his hip he was holding what I thought was a power drill. The next thing I knew, I was getting … [Read more...]

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


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


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.


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...]