It was August of 2015, a Friday, and I was taking my 20-year-old son, Jordan, to the Atlanta airport to catch a shuttle bus back to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he lived with his dad. Call it a mother’s intuition, but something inside me yearned for Jordan to stay with me a little while longer. On the way to the airport we argued –and I cried—but Jordan looked at me and said, “Mama, everything’s going to be okay. I just want to go home.”
Little did I know that this mother’s intuition was spot on and it would be the last time I ever saw my precious third-born son alive.
A few days later I was exhausted from traveling so I decided to take a nap. When I laid down, I felt a cool sensation come over my body and I thought to myself, “Jordan didn’t call me today.” Jordan didn’t call me every day. He didn’t even text me every day. But, for some reason, it made me feel uneasy that I had not heard from him.
I turned my cell phone off to charge it, which I rarely ever do. A little while later, my daughter woke me up to tell me that her grandmother and many other relatives were trying to reach me. My phone started beeping and ringing as I turned it back on.
The first person I reached was my sister, who was hysterically crying on the other end of the phone. After several minutes of trying to calm her down, I was finally able to discern what she was saying: Jordan had been shot in a drive-by and people were saying he was dead.
My stomach sank and a feeling of disbelief came over me. “He’s dead?!” I said, while feeling hopeful that he was not. “No he’s not,” I said, “What do you mean he’s dead?!”
My mind was racing. How would I get myself together and quickly get to Chattanooga, which was two hours away? I needed to tell Jordan’s siblings that he had been shot.
I wiped my tears, called the kids together and told them that Jordan had been hurt and they needed to pack. I left out the part about people believing he was dead because I didn’t want to believe it myself. I had to tell them he had potentially passed away.
I contemplated how I was going to drive two hours to Chattanooga safely. Should I ask my teen son to drive? Would I be able to handle driving the kids that distance without losing it? Just before we left town, I pulled into a nearby church parking lot, got out of the car, kneeled in the grass and prayed for God to give me the strength to get me and the kids there safely. A calm came over me and I was able to drive to Chattanooga without incident.
When we arrived, relatives were already gathered at my mom’s house. It was surreal because this kind of situation is something I’ve seen play out on TV, but is not something I had personally experienced.
I approached my son’s father and he said, “I’m so sorry, sorry you had to come home for this.” I looked over at my grandmother and collapsed in her arms saying, “Mama, tell me it’s not true, please!” I knew my worst fears had come true when the chaplain approached and asked if he could pray with me as they all entered my mother’s family room. I desperately wanted to see Jordan, even if he had passed, but was not allowed.
To this day, I have no idea how many bullets ripped through my child’s body. I want to know but, then again, I don’t. It’s something no parent wants to imagine, but not knowing is also very painful. There is no good decision for such a choice.
Since Jordan’s death, I have been a passionate advocate for common sense laws to keep guns out of the hands of people with dangerous histories. I take any opportunity to speak to the media, at events and other venues. I am the founder of Jordan’s Light Foundation. I joined Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and am a member of the Everytown Survivor Network.
While Jordan did not finish high school himself, he was always encouraging younger kids to get their education and do the right thing. In fact, I was approached by a director of a recreation center who used to observe Jordan advising younger kids, telling them to go home, do their schoolwork and stay out of gangs.
Jordan would have wanted me to stand up and speak out against the senseless violence that is tearing our communities apart. In his name, that’s exactly what I intend to do.
Where one leads, one will follow!
This piece is by Satedra Smith, a Tennessee member of the Everytown Survivor Network and Survivor Engagement Lead. If you have been personally affected by gun violence and would like to share your story with Moms Demand Action, please email [email protected]