November 2020 Newsletter

Welcome from Sandy and Lonnie
Greetings, and best wishes as the holiday season begins. Thanksgiving is upon us, and it is like no other most of us have ever experienced. The pandemic is changing family traditions, and everyday life, in ways small and very large. We understand from our own experience with tragedy the need for tacking and turning to deal with unexpected challenges and great loss. But 2020 has been a very difficult time for everyone we know.  We do, however, have hope for the new year. We are looking forward to a new era of gun policy reform promised in the Biden-Harris administration's platform. We're excited about a new mindfulness training program which we're launching with the terrific Shelly Tygielski and the University of California at San Diego. We are also buoyed by the fellowship of people like two of our friends and wonderful allies we introduce to you in this issue: Craig Thomas, a survivor of a shooting at LAX in 2013, and Wayne Kaplan, who finds supporting Survivors Empowered a satisfying and meaningful way of spending his considerable talents, and creating a better world. Thank you, Craig and Wayne!  Despite being “grounded” by the pandemic, we’ve been expanding our network and outreach. We will be featured by CNN's Lisa Ling on an upcoming show, tentatively scheduled for mid-December - we are honored. We continue to partner with, as well as other organizations and governments. We're also happy to be collaborating closely with San Diegans Against Gun Violence and other grassroots groups and will have more to say about our alliances in an upcoming  newsletter.  Two more items are in this November roundup: varied news of interest and a reminder about the upcoming Giving Tuesday on Dec. 1. We support the generosity embodied in that worldwide day of charitable action, and we we would be so grateful if you support our efforts on behalf of survivors.   Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving,  Sandy and Lonnie  
New Initiative Aims to Build Healing Corps

When 43 gun violence survivors and 12 therapists and meditation instructors converged on the Healing Through Love Meditation Retreat in Barre, Massachusetts, in August 2019, it was a watershed moment.

In a first-of-its-kind event, the three-day mindfulness retreat brought together survivors and family members of victims from shootings in 10 cities — including the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and Sandy and Lonnie Phillips — for support and healing in a safe space.

Shelly Tygielski, a mindfulness instructor from South Florida who had supported the families of victims and survivors of the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting in Parkland, and Sharon Salzberg, a meditation teacher, organized the retreat. It wound up being “something special” and “for many, it was the first time they didn’t have to explain themselves,” Tygielski said. Now, in partnership with the University of California at San Diego and Tygielski, Survivors Empowered is launching a free online training program in which an initial cohort of people affected by gun violence can train to become teachers of mindfulness, which has proven to be a powerful tool for helping survivors reduce stress and heal from their trauma. Read more here

From Fear to Friendship: A Survivors' Bond
On the morning of November 1, 2013, Craig Thomas joined others running for their lives at Los Angeles International Airport — and that terrifying stampede from a mass shooting, which left one Transportation Security Administration officer dead, is still reverberating today.    Thomas, a writer, quickly turned to Twitter to let friends and family know he was OK, though terribly shaken. One of the people who saw his tweets and reached out to him was someone he had never met - Sandy Phillips. Her response made him feel “seen and heard,” he said. She “found a way to work her magic, and sent me love.”    Their healing contact was the first of many, and now Thomas counts Sandy and Lonnie as dear friends who remain sources of support. Read more here.   
Donating in More Ways Than One
Wayne Kaplan and Sandy Phillips both walked the halls of Robert A. Millikan Senior High School as students there in the 1960s, but roughly five decades passed before they really met.  

They reconnected through Facebook, where the lifelong activist came across Sandy’s posts about gun safety. Eventually he learned what drove her and Lonnie’s passion: the killing of their daughter, Jessi, in the Aurora movie theater shooting.  He is now not just an old high school classmate, but a new friend who is supporting Survivors Empowered with both substantial financial contributions and his website and social media skills. 

“It’s been incredible,” Wayne said of working with Sandy and Lonnie. “Getting involved with them has kind of given me a little more purpose in life,” he said. Read more here

It’s not even 10 years old, but it’s a force for good. Can you help us make the most of the day? #GivingTuesday is a worldwide movement for generosity that grew up as a counterpoint to the materialism of Black Friday and CyberMonday. It’s always five days after Thanksgiving, and this year falls on Dec. 1. We would be honored to receive a donation from you, no matter how small. Click here to donate online. 

News Roundup
  • LifeBridge Health, a Baltimore-area hospital network, has broken ground on a $12 million center where residents traumatized by violence can get wraparound services, including trauma-informed therapy. 
  • The Wisconsin chapter of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action vowed to "fight harder for a safer Wisconsin" in response to a shooting inside Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa that left eight people injured. 
  • Two parents mourn the loss of their daughter in a school shooting in "If Anything Happens, I Love You," a 12-minute animated short film on Netflix that is drawing critical acclaim. Actress Laura Dern, one of the executive producers, talked about the film and gun safety for a Variety article
  • Milwaukee firefighters will be handing out free gunlocks in response to a surge in shootings.  
  • A 10-year-old girl from Cincinnati won an Emmy award for her voice-over work on a documentary about the effects of gun violence. 
Published in October 2019, Tragedy in Aurora: The Culture of Mass Shootings in America, is Tom Diaz's account of the death of Lonnie and Sandy Phillips' daughter, Jessi, and the political polarization and stagnation behind the country's failure to enact common-sense policies to stem gun violence. 

The book can be found on Amazon here.    

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