Sandy and Lonnie Phillips relived the worst day of their lives after hearing about an elementary school shooting in Texas. They are now heading to the Lone Star State as part of their mission to offer comfort and resources to other survivors of gun violence.
The couple founded the organization Survivors Empowered after their daughter, Jessica Redfield Ghawi, was killed in the 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The organization seeks to connect families affected by mass shootings with a network of other survivors, while providing tools the Phillips say they wish they had sooner.
An 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday.
“Our hearts – and any help we can give – are with you,” the couple said in a statement as they planned to head to Uvalde to “hold the hands and broken hearts of the families who were expecting wake up their children this morning but will never be able to do so again.”
The shooting in Texas followed another mass shooting, at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, earlier this month, where a gunman killed 10 people in an incident authorities called “violent extremism in racial motivation”.
After the shooting, the Phillips were in Buffalo to offer understanding to the victims and help them through this life-changing event. Survivors Empowered reaches out with its toolkit, developed with former Rep. Gabby Giffords who survived the shooting of a gunman at a constituent meeting in Tucson, Ariz., in 2011.
The toolkit offers advice on how to deal with the range of emotions after a shooting. It also offers advice to survivors on dealing with sudden and intrusive attention from the media and strangers, as well as unexpected legal issues regarding fundraisers and the harassment of conspiracy theorists.
“We’re trying to prepare them for the fact that they’re going to lose friends and loved ones to this, because you’re a new person now, and they won’t know what to do with you,” Sandy Phillips told WGRZ. from Buffalo. 2.
She added that with Survivors Empowered, those directly affected by the mass shootings “will have a whole army of other survivors around them who will be there for them from that day forward.”
Sandy Phillips said Policy His organization was leaving Buffalo on Wednesday when reports of the Uvalde shooting arrived. She said she had not slept for 24 hours as she was ready to fly to Uvalde on Friday, the 20th shooting she and her husband have responded to in the 10 years since their daughter’s death.
Uvalde is of particular importance to the couple. Their daughter Jessica grew up in nearby San Antonio and their son works as a first responder in the area and showed up at the scene after the shooting, CBS Denver affiliate KCNC-TV reports.
As their organization grew, the Phillips quit their jobs and rented out their house so they could travel more easily, according to a 2019 interview with 60 minutes. The couple said they did the work out of compassion, but also because it was therapeutic for him to interact with other people who shared his experience.
“It’s a club no one wants to belong to, but once you’re in, you can’t quit,” Sandy Phillips told WGRZ 2 in Buffalo. of family.”
Newsweek contacted the Phillips for comment.