Dear America, 
I will never forget the phone call from my sister, Lucia.  She told me that there had been an incident at our house that they were calling a ‘home invasion.’ She said that someone was hurt and taken to the hospital but we were not sure who.  My grandmother lived with my parents, it could have been any one of them.  Lucia called me back a few minutes later and told me it was Mom and I said to her, well that’s good because Grandma would not survive something like that, plus it’s Mom.  She doesn’t even get sick.  She’s the toughest person I know.  She will be fine.  
On that cold, but sunny February morning, a stranger knocked on the door of my parents’ home.  My mom answered the door and a man she had never met opened fire, shooting her multiple times.  He entered the home to find my grandmother’s caregiver and shot and wounded her, as well.  Paramedics airlifted my mom to a hospital, but the damage was too great and she died that afternoon.  My mom did absolutely nothing wrong, yet she was gone.    
My parents, Norm and Ruthanne Lodato, met in grade school, married after college, and raised me and my two sisters on the same street where my mom grew up. My mom was a force.  She was a small business owner, a mother, a caregiver, a teacher, and a musician.  She did it all and made it look effortless.  I still remember one of the first times that I tried to make one of my mom’s dishes on my own and I asked her for the recipe.  She told me she’d have to think about it and type it up for me.  I told her I didn’t want her to spend a lot of time on it, I just figured she had it written down.  When she sent it over, it was a list of ingredients.  I called her with all these questions and said Mom, in what order do I add the ingredients?  What about this?  What about that?  She laughed and said I don’t know, I just do it.  And that was her… she just did it all and made it look easy.  But she was TAKEN from me, my family, and our community.   I know in my heart that if something like this had happened to me, my mom would not stop until there were common-sense solutions in place to prevent gun violence.
I refuse to accept that it’s normal to live in a country where 100 Americans are shot and killed daily, and many more are wounded.  The survivors and their loved ones are left with the scars and trauma of gun violence.  I will use my voice to advocate for gun safety for my mom and all those who no longer have a voice.
I am honored to be photographed with my sister, Carmen, who like me, tells her story to keep our mother’s memory alive.
Dear America, 
We have a gun problem in this country.
This gun problem forever altered my life six and a half years ago, when a stranger knocked on the front door of our home and shot my mom in broad daylight in our “safe” neighborhood.
The man was a felon, so he shouldn’t have had access to a firearm, and it was later discovered that he had killed two other people. He is in prison for life, but my mom is not here to grow old with my dad, enjoy her grandchildren, or relax in retirement. She worked hard in her career as a music teacher and in taking care of her family (me and my sisters and her mother who lived with us). She was robbed of her next chapter in life. 
I have spent the last several years, along with my sister Gina, sharing my experience with gun violence in the hopes of changing people’s hearts and minds. I’ve talked to neighborhood groups, church groups, and local, state, and federal elected officials. I have met many other survivors of gun violence and learned many disturbing statistics along the way. 
Did you know 100 people die from gun violence EVERY DAY in the United States? Two-thirds of those gun deaths are suicides. In an average month, 52 American women are shot to death by an intimate partner. Black children and teens are 14x more likely than their white peers to die by gun homicide. So much of this is PREVENTABLE. Common sense gun laws like universal background checks, red flag laws, and an assault weapons ban, can save lives. 
This gun problem is uniquely American. Politicians and pundits come up with every excuse under the sun, except blaming guns when a mass shooting happens. But guess what? There are violent video games and people with mental illnesses in other developed countries and still, the US gun homicide rate is 25x that of other high-income countries. 
We can make this country safer for everyone! Elect candidates who are committed to keeping ALL communities safe from gun violence. Please. This is a matter of life or death.