Dear America, 

Home of the free, land of the brave, where dreams are built and become reality. America, the land of  opportunity and your voice matters. Only in America, they say. Raise a family behind a white picket fence and live happily ever after, that is the ultimate dream, right? To have a good job & raise a family. How many kids should we have, one? No, two! One boy & one girl, that way they have a friend to grow up with. Twins, even better! It's perfect! was
I used to tell myself, things like "that" don't happen to me...until it did. I am a mother of two beautiful children. One boy and one girl, twins. There is one problem though, gun violence. It stole the life of one of my children and forever altered the life of another. Which one was taken by gun violence you ask? My answer is, both! While one was taken at the age of just 4 years old, the other witnessed this act and was told that their sibling died and would never be coming back. I ask that you look into the eyes of your own children and for a second imagine a lifetime without them, or having to tell them the most incomprehensible, devastating news of their life. It takes your breath away and you don't quite breathe the same way ever again. 
On March 6, 2011, my daughter Dayla was shot by a stray bullet while my son, who was sitting beside his sister, witnessed everything. He still remembers his dad holding a sweatshirt to her head where she was shot. The Flight For Life cutting off her shirt from her body. I remember the feeling in my stomach, the drop, that something wasn't right and the call moments later from the police officer telling me to meet my daughter at the hospital. Showing up in the emergency room to only have moments with my daughter before she was whisked away to emergency brain surgery. To be handed a plastic bag of her hair by a nurse because she felt I would want to keep it. Because in the end, it's all I would have left of her from that day. I got to hold my daughter one last time before they took her away. I was the first to hold her bringing her into this world and I was the last to hold her on her way out. 
America, I wish none of this for you and you shouldn't wish this on yourself. How do you avoid this same fate, you ask? You vote! It's not enough to simply use your voice alone; we have to do it collectively to create change. We don't have to accept this as the norm, we don't have to live like this. Join me in making America safer for all our children!
Stephanie Pizzoferrato