For many months to follow the only peace I had were the first few seconds of each day when I opened my eyes and for one brief flash forgot what had happened. When the realization hit – it hurt me every morning – again and again.
— Jamie Checkett McLaughlin
In the late evening of March 27, 1992 my brother Chet was murdered on a quiet street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. My vibrant, handsome, funny, compassionate, and loving brother was killed with a shot through his heart. A gun in the hands of a criminal with vengeance in his heart took my brother’s life swiftly and violently. The shock and the horror were unimaginable. It was hard to believe that it wasn’t a nightmare that I would awaken from. I was praying it was so. I literally had to touch hard surfaces around me to make sure I was awake. For many months to follow the only peace I had were the first few seconds of each day when I opened my eyes and for one brief flash forgot what had happened. When the realization hit – it hurt me every morning – again and again.
Our days became surreal and the search for what happened was a long and arduous one. Through years of pain, confusion, sorrow, investigation, and ultimately an exhausting trial, impact letters, and sentencing, it came to an “end.” But the “closure” will never really come.
To lose a sibling is a unique loss. My brother was only 16 months younger than me and our lives had been intertwined for “my” ever. He was also my devoted and loving friend. To see my parents suffer the loss of their precious son was heartbreaking in a way that nothing else will ever be. My sister’s pain was my pain. We held on to each other with solace and shared grieving for our wonderful brother. Our lives and the lives of extended family and devoted friends were shattered — and indeed will never be whole again. With the love and healing of family, faith, and friends we learned how to take the next steps forward into our new life without Chet.
We honor Chet’s memory each and every day. His light on this earth may have been extinguished that night, but it will live on forever in our hearts. In his memory and to ensure a safer future for my own sons I will continue to fight diligently for gun violence prevention. The time is NOW.
Dear Mr. President,
I hope this letter finds you and your beautiful family well. Although I am fifty-two years old, this is the first letter I have ever written to a President. I have been so moved and so taken with your renewed and firm stance on gun-control that I felt it important I let you know personally.
Twenty years ago, my brother Chet was murdered with a gun shot through his heart. My life and the lives of my Mom, Dad and sister Julie were absolutely shattered. We have tried to pick up the pieces since then, but as you can imagine nothing will ever be whole without the missing piece of our precious Chet. To honor his memory and to help ensure that other families are not shattered by this senseless violence, we have become advocates for gun-control. We are members of the Brady Campaign and my mother Carol Checkett in particular works very diligently with Mayor Bloomberg and Donna Dees Thomases on this important issue. Nothing until now has brought us more confidence and hope that things will finally change. Your courage, eloquence, compassion, and determination to make our country safer for future generations is breathtaking. I have been a devoted supporter of you from the very beginning, but I could not be prouder of you now than I ever have been before (and that is saying a lot).
When the Sandy Hook tragedy unfolded we were shattered once again along with the nation and indeed the world. When I first heard the news I had a frantic urge to leave my desk at work and get on a train and travel to Washington to lay on the steps of the Capital building in mourning. However, I did not have to do that because you quickly came out and spoke on behalf of all of us wanting to hear that this would not be tolerated any longer.
I hold you up in prayer and ask for God’s guidance and blessing as you pursue this rightful course.
My heart overflows with gratitude and respect for you, Vice President Biden, your family and your staff.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
God bless you.
Jamie Checkett McLaughlin