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Survivor Stories

On Mother’s Day, We Honor the Mothers Impacted By Gun Violence

Mother’s Day can be a happy reminder to celebrate the maternal figures who have impacted our lives. 

However, because of our country’s gun violence crisis, Mother’s Day is a more painful occasion for many. Mothers and maternal figures are among the more than 120 people killed by gun violence and more than 200 others who are shot and wounded every day in the United States. 

The United States will mark Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 12, 2024. This day and year-round, Everytown is remembering the mothers grieving their children and children grieving their mothers. We also hold space for the families whose loved ones are still living, but are indelibly marked by the realities of surviving gun violence. 

Mothers Grieving Their Children

Jennifer Young

My youngest child, Xavier, was shot and killed at age 14. Me and my kids are not the same, and understanding we never will be. Xavier was the youngest of my four kids. He was an athlete; he loved to dance and to help others. We found out at his funeral just how much he was helping, which made me that much more proud of him: He donated seven organs, saving five lives.

It’s been six years, and I still remember that call like it is happening over and over again. We didn’t get to hear his voice again before he died. We always wondered: Did he hear us telling him we loved him while he was brain-dead, on life support only to preserve his organs?

I got to sit with my son on life support and talk to him for four days—many don’t get that.

My surviving kids have had it hard—nightmares and anxiety and watching their mom slowly lose her sense of being. We love Xavier always, and we want to tell everyone to love their families because life is precious. Unless you go through something like this, you really don’t understand the level of pain we go through—it’s physical, mental, and emotional.

My 18-year-old son, LaDarius, was killed on June 6, 2021. LaDarius had a soul of pure kindness. He offered understanding and compassion as a means of support for his friends and family. He played football throughout high school, and he loved to dance. 

LaDarius’ life was taken by the hands of another. He was not the intended target of the shooting. Unfortunately, when someone makes a conscious decision to shoot in the dark in a park with people around—as happened in this case—the taking of a life can very well be the outcome. 

And this was the outcome for our family: We are left behind to navigate life without our loved one. As a mom, this has been extremely difficult. 

Along the pathway of healing, we saw a need and had a desire to support other families in our community who have been impacted by gun violence. We established a nonprofit in honor of LaDarius: Families Left Behind NFP. Our mission is to offer advocacy, support, and non-clinical services for families who have lost a loved one by gun violence in our communities. 

Christie Gilbert

My precious son, Tyler Gilbert, was 12 years old when he was murdered by his father on August 4, 2021. 

Tyler was an amazing son and the light of my life. We had an incredibly close bond like no other. My whole being is completely shattered by Tyler’s death.

Tyler was murdered by his father, but the system also failed Tyler along the way. His father was let out of jail a few weeks after committing serious crimes. He was released with minimal conditions, without supervision, and was released to a home that had loaded weapons that were not locked up—even though his condition of release included that he could not drink, use drugs, or possess firearms.

Tyler’s headstone went up the same day he was supposed to start seventh grade. Tyler was a loving son, brother, grandson, and friend. He was a kind and smart boy who would have had a wonderful life.

Genevieve “Jenny” Wieland

On Friday, November 20,1992, my friends from work and I went to lunch. We all talked about our plans for Thanksgiving. Little did I know that within 6 hours I would get a call from the sheriff’s office saying “Amy was in an accident.” I asked if she had been in her car, and he said no—she’d been shot.

The man who shot Amy showed up with a stolen handgun. He was angry at Amy because she was helping his girlfriend, encouraging her to leave that abusive relationship.

Amy was a prankster, and liked to play practical jokes on me, like throwing cold water over the shower and hearing me scream. She loved family, was loyal to her friends, had an infectious laugh, and reached out to those who were less fortunate than her. Amy’s favorite football team was the Chicago Bears. It didn’t matter if they won or lost.

I thought I wouldn’t survive such a loss and grief. Burying your child is something that parents should never face. You may wonder where I find my strength; I gain strength from hearing and reading other survivors’ stories. Walking beside them is an honor.

People Grieving Their Mothers

Simone Gotter Nagle

I loved life with my mom, but when my mom took her life using a gun, she became eclipsed by her death. Each time I think of her, it’s not about our life together, it’s all about how she died—the details of that morning, picturing it and trying not to picture it, reconciling my incredibly gentle mom with such a violent and lonely death. My mom—soft-spoken and graceful, lover of coffee and pedicures, encouraging and giving—died alone, somehow believing suicide was her only option.

We often don’t know who is suicidal until it is too late. What if my mom didn’t have access to an unlocked firearm when she was so vulnerable? What if something so lethal wasn’t readily available when she was so desperate? I will never know what could have been different.

I wish she could have seen other paths for moving forward through depression and addiction, but mostly I wish that she could have seen herself the way our family saw her. I’m hoping for a time when I can remember her the way I always saw her in life, without those memories overshadowed by gun violence and the what-ifs.

On December 13, 1992, my dear mother completed suicide with a gun. She had been very ill and had recently lost my dad suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack on her 73rd birthday. She suffered all her life with severe depressive episodes but had been doing well for many years. Losing my daddy after 53 years together was, I believe, more than she could bear.

Nothing in my life prepared me for losing my mama in that violent manner. She was my best friend. She was beautiful inside and out, had a great sense of humor, had a lovely singing voice, and was the best cook ever. She was the most non-judgmental person I’ve ever known. You could talk to her about anything and she listened with understanding and compassion. 

So many people helped me through my grief during that difficult time that I decided to go back to college and become a school counselor. I counseled kids of all ages for 17 years. Helping others was my way of healing and bringing some good out of my loss. I miss Mama every day, but I was very blessed to have her for 37 years.

Kristen Koppenhaver Kauffman

The world stood still on a late March evening as word began to travel about a horrific murder-suicide. Our tiny, rural Pennsylvanian community mourned, in shock that my mother, Gail Koppenhaver, was the homicide victim in this tragic domestic abuse incident. My mom died, the victim of gun violence two days before my 20th birthday.

Her beautiful smile, sense of humor, and positive outlook lit up the lives of everyone she knew. Her coworkers, friends, customers, and acquaintances all recognized the kindness and genuine happiness she brought into the world.

In addition to a career in banking/advertising, my mom was a dance teacher. She taught hundreds of dancers during the years she spent at the studio. My mother adored these children and took pride in her creativity and passion for the arts.

In 2008, my dad and I created the Gail Koppenhaver Dance and Scholarship Competition to give back to the community in her memory. Dancers from the region compete, share their talents, and raise money for the GK scholarships. We have awarded over $100,000 to college seniors in the past 14 years, all in her memory.

Twenty years later … I miss my best friend.

Families Grieving With Living Survivors


My mom, Monica, was shot in the head when she was 20 years old. A new mom, she had left her husband shortly after their baby was born and obtained a restraining order.

Months later, after obtaining a gun that was legally purchased, he found her. He fired twice, missing the first time and striking her right temple the second time. He then sped from the scene, leaving her for dead. My grandmother raced to a neighbor’s house to call 911.

My mom ultimately survived, but she spent weeks in a coma. When she woke up, the doctors told her her baby was okay—but she didn’t remember she had a baby to begin with. The bullet irreparably damaged her memory and personality. In addition to suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury, my mom lost one eye and her sense of smell, and she lives in constant pain. I now take care of her. So, in a way, I am a mother to my own mom, who lost the ability to parent her own child and cannot take care of herself.

My daughter is Victoria Gwynn, and she is a survivor of gun violence in the city of Louisville, Kentucky. Her brother is Christian Gwynn, and he was killed by a drive-by on December 19, 2019. He was 19. 

Christian’s death tore Victoria’s world apart. They were best friends, and after he died she was shattered. She was fighting depression and thoughts of suicide.

One day she decided to go hang out with her friends trying to have a good day at the park, and it all went downhill. She was at Ballard Park, sitting with her friends, when a group of cars pulled up and jumped out with assault weapons and shot up the park. Over 250 rounds let off, hitting cars, houses, and my daughter and one of her friends; he died from his injuries two days later. 

By the way, my son was 19 when he was killed; my daughter was 19 when she was shot. Our world is unfair. In honor of my daughter and in memory of her friend, we will host a Wear Orange event on June 1, 2024, at the park where the shooting took place.

Natasha Lovelace

On July 10, 2021, Makayla had just passed her driver’s test to get her license. She had to work that day and was excited to drive there on her own. Unfortunately, on her way to her second job, she was shot in the right side of her head in a crossfire. She received emergency life-saving brain surgery. Makayla was in the hospital for two months, where she had to learn to talk, walk, and even eat again. She is still involved in physical, speech, and occupational therapies, on top of other appointments with neurologists, psychologists, etc.

This created a major turn in her life and the lives of everyone who was involved. She is definitely a miracle, but there is a long road to go. Just recently, she returned to school to complete her senior year. We just got the news that she is on track for graduation with her class, which is amazing.

This journey is a difficult one, but platforms such as this offer the support that we need to push forward!

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