Forgive me if this is difficult to read.

I’ve just seen a headline about another mass shooting. Sadly, there are so many that it feels almost casual to scroll by the news.

I’ve been affected by gun violence. Its long-lasting consequences are not casual.

When I was 7 years old, my mother was shot during a domestic dispute with my father. Mom survived. She died from other health issues in 2016.

Thankfully, I didn’t witness the shooting.

Sadly, 50 years later, I still have memories about the warm and sunny August day. I can hear my grandmother talking on the front porch outside my bedroom window. Later that day, I hunted four-leaf clovers in my grandparents’ front yard. I can vividly remember my cousin running toward me, exclaiming in a singsong voice, “Your daddy shot your mommy last night!” Until that moment, I hadn’t been told what happened.


I screamed. I’d learned that guns kill. I had to be reassured several times that Mom was alive. That night I dreamt of her being gone forever. I sobbed myself awake.

For years, I had dreams about people I love dying.

Weeks after the shooting, I vividly remember Mom being wheeled toward me down the corridor of the hospital. She had IV tubes in both arms, with hanging IV bags on either side of her. I hid behind a column. Mom didn’t look like Mom. My young eyes saw the IV tubes as long, clear worms coming out of her bruised, taped-up arms. Wanting a hug, Mom reached toward me. I stared, not budging. Tears began to stream down her face. I felt immense guilt for making her cry. I finally ran to her, to ease the guilty feeling.

Until the day Mom died, I felt that same pang of guilt if I disappointed her. I tried hard to not disappoint her – or, myself. I became a perfectionist, not in a healthy way. It took years of therapy for me to be OK with not doing everything just right.

I still struggle when I disappoint people.

I seldom mentioned the shooting to anyone except very close friends. It made me feel too different from others. Taboo.


I began to talk about my childhood experience after the Newtown massacre, because the children were the age group I was when I suffered trauma. I sobbed for those who died. I sobbed equally for the children who survived, because for the rest of their lives they will remember the too-soon understanding, and effects of, gross violence.

It’s important for people to know that a shooting affects not only the person injured or killed; each fired bullet also permeates the lives of family members, friends, community members and, especially, witnesses.

We are a traumatized nation, desensitized to the headlines we read about shootings.

We need to more often discuss the long-term effect of the trauma of gun violence on so many people.

I always strive to be upbeat and healthy-minded. But I will always know how gun violence affected me.

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