ANNE THALHEIMER + AMANDA
My name’s Anne and I live in Western Massachusetts. I’m an artist and educator, and I’m into local politics and community organizing. I make cute hats and I teach kids, and I’ve been an autobio cartoonist since I was 16. I have tattoos and cats, and I’m a roller derby official, and I love Iceland. I look younger than I am, but I don’t get carded at bars any more. I dye my hair. I work at a museum.
Hi, I’m Amanda, and I live in rural Tennessee. I’m a research biologist and educator, and I volunteer with animal rescues and community organizers. I am a wife and mother of a college-aged daughter and walk to my campus every day for work. I love to draw. I love small and slimy critters and relish the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for the little buggers with anyone willing to listen.
Together, we are misfits, educators, activists, women-warriors. We are also survivors of gun violence.
We went to school with a murderer. We sit with that heavy truth. In December 1992, our classmate at our small college was able to easily and legally buy a cheap, Chinese-made SKS rifle through a then-loophole in Massachusetts law that honored the laws of the purchaser’s home state. He was from Montana. He loaded the gun with the bullets he’d had shipped to campus and walked through the cold December air, firing at anything that moved. We found out later that he had enough ammunition to kill us all, but the gun kept jamming. Frustrated, he gave up after murdering two, wounding four, and tearing apart our peaceful winter night.
We carry this trauma with us everywhere we go. We honor and deeply miss our beloved professor, Ñacuñán, who believed in us and inspired us with his style and love of learning. We remember our sweet, generous friend, Galen, killed as he dashed from the library to help Ñacuñán.
We have lived with this for more than 25 years, but it is only quite recently that we realized that we were survivors of gun violence and began to carry this experience openly. What spurred us to action was Sandy Hook, which happened 20 years to the day after our school shooting. We are both Survivor Fellows with Everytown for Gun Safety and use our stories and our training to tell our stories to legislators and lawmakers and people at meetings - anyone willing to listen. In this way, we preserve our memories of Ñacuñán and Galen. In this way, we work for a world where these stories are a thing of the past.
We still feel like it is not enough, because -- as we both know too well -- gun violence in our country has reached epidemic proportions, and our children and educators remain on the front lines. Each shooting, every time, feels like the air leaving our lungs, like the ground giving way, like everything is wrong. It is wrong. Some days it is all we can do to get out of bed. Some days we don’t. We each have our own journey, but our love and support for each other as sister survivors, as longtime friends, helps us honor our dead, keep living, and see the unique journey of other survivors with an open and fearless heart. From that, we draw our strength.
Anne and Amanda