I lay awake many nights with tears welling, feeling an oppressive sense of heartbreak. There is a gun violence problem in America. More than 90 people are killed every day, seven of whom are children and teens.
My son Joshua was one of them.
In 2008, while answering a knock at the door of his friend's apartment in Tacoma’s South End, Joshua was shot by gunmen seeking to rob the apartment.
Joshua, at 20 years young — a student at St. Martin’s University on academic and athletic scholarship, full of life, laughter, love and infectious smiles — was gone.
His smile felt like the sun was beaming down on you; everything around you seemed to bask in a bright glow. It was a tragic blow to our family, his friends, his teammates, the college campus, his former high school and local church.
Gun violence has a ripple effect, crashing through a family, and leaving so many others in its wake. This is why I became involved in the gun safety movement, to be part of the solution. This is why I wear orange.
Wear Orange and National Gun Violence Awareness Day was inspired by a group of Chicago teens who asked their classmates to wear orange -- the color hunters wear to protect themselves in the woods. They wanted to honor their bright, brilliant friend Hadiya Pendleton, who was murdered by gunfire in her Chicago neighborhood.
Full of promise, with a bright future ahead of her, just like Josh, her light was extinguished far too soon.
Wearing orange is a simple yet powerful action. You can wear a pin, a shirt, or get decked out in a blaze of orange. Take a picture of yourself and post it on social media using the hashtag #WearOrange.
The color demands to be seen. It shows a value for life. It also sends a powerful message to our policy makers, state legislatures and elected leaders that we are serious about preventing gun violence.
The Wear Orange campaign honors, remembers and celebrates the lives of those taken by gun violence, and the hundreds more injured daily. It is a time of celebration of what we have accomplished and a recognition of all we still have to do.
There will be many marches, block parties, rallies and events throughout Washington state and the country on Friday and Saturday (June 2 and 3).
I had the honor of meeting Hadiya’s parents recently at an event for gun violence survivors. We agreed that while there are days the heartache is severe, we continue this work so no other parent has to endure the pain of losing a child to gun violence.
As survivors, we feel a sense of urgency to use our voices, to speak out with the hope of putting an end to this senseless suffering. We all have a voice and a role to play. Every action, no matter how small, can make a difference.
Survivors, moms, dads, city officials, mayors, law enforcement, teachers, artists, faith leaders and cultural influencers have all joined the Wear Orange campaign. They share our belief that there is more we can, and must do, to realize a future free from gun violence.
Orange is about saving lives.
I am just like you — an everyday working mom who wants my family, home and Pierce County community to be safer.
I never thought my son would be murdered. I never thought this would happen to me; no one ever does. But gun violence can happen in your home, school or town. Unless we do something to stop it.
Please join the Wear Orange campaign and remember that together we can end gun violence.
Kimberley Gatbunton of Lakewood is a fellow with the Everytown Survivor Network. She started a Pierce County Moms Demand Action local group, and worked to pass two gun safety ballot initiatives in Washington. She continues to speak at local events and meets with survivors whenever she travels.