Sandy and Lonnie Phillips relived the worst day of their lives after hearing about a shooting at a Texas elementary school. They are now on their way to the Lone Star State as part of their mission to offer comfort and resources to other gun violence survivors.
The couple formed Survivors Empowered after their daughter, Jessica Redfield Ghawi, was killed while filming at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012. The organization seeks to connect families affected by mass shootings with a network of other survivors while providing tools the Phillips say they once wished they had.
An 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday.
“Our hearts – and any help we can give – are with you,” the couple said in a statement as they made plans to go to Uvalde to “hold the hands and broken hearts of the families that have been expecting.” to wake her children this morning, but will never be able to again.”
The Texas shooting followed another mass shooting at a convenience store in Buffalo, New York earlier this month in which a gunman killed 10 people in an incident authorities described as “racially motivated violent extremism.”
After the shooting, the Phillipses were in Buffalo to offer understanding to the victims and help them navigate the life-changing event. Survivors Empowered turns with its toolkit developed with former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who survived being shot by a gunman at a constituent assembly in Tucson, Arizona in 2011.
The toolkit offers advice on how to deal with the range of emotions after a shoot. It also offers tips for survivors on how to deal with the sudden and intrusive attention of the media and strangers, as well as unexpected legal issues surrounding fundraisers and harassment by conspiracy theorists.
“We’re trying to prepare them for the fact that they’re going to lose friends and family because of this, because you’re a new person now and they don’t know what to do with you,” Sandy Phillips told Buffalo’s WGRZ 2.
She added that with Survivors Empowered, those directly affected by mass shootings “will have a whole army of other survivors around them who will be there for them from that day forward.”
Sandy Phillips tells Politically On Wednesday, her organization left Buffalo as reports of the Uvalde shooting began to pour in. She said she had not slept for 24 hours when she was ready to fly to Uvalde on Friday, which will be the 20th shooting she and her husband have responded to in the 10 years since their daughter’s death.
Uvalde has a special meaning for the couple. Their daughter Jessica was raised in nearby San Antonio, and their son works as a first responder in the area and showed up at the scene after the shooting, reports KCNC-TV, a Denver-based CBS affiliate.
As their organization grew, the Phillipses quit their jobs and rented out their home so they could travel more easily, according to a 2019 interview 60 minutes. The couple said they do the work out of compassion, but also because it is therapeutic for them to interact with others who share their experiences.
“It’s a club that no one wants to be a part of, but once you’re a part of it, you can’t give up,” Sandy Phillips told Buffalo’s WGRZ 2 of the family.
news week has reached out to the Phillipses for comment.
https://www.newsweek.com/aurora-victims-parents-offer-support-families-uvalde-mass-shooting-1710664 Aurora victim’s parents offer support to families involved in mass shooting in Uvalde