Today marks one month since June 12, when our son Jerry went to celebrate a friend’s 21st birthday at Pulse nightclub. He never came home. Neither did 48 other club-goers who had planned to enjoy a carefree night of dancing and music. Instead they were massacred by a hate-filled American who pledged allegiance to ISIS, who was easily able to purchase firearms and commit the worst mass shooting in modern American history.
For the rest of our lives, we will never hear our son's voice. We are torn apart inside, like Jerry’s body was torn apart. Our hearts bleed, like Jerry did on the floor of that nightclub. We hurt, like he hurt from the impact of bullets hitting his body. But while Jerry’s pain is over, our wounds will never heal.
In the wake of Jerry’s murder, while we’ve been mourning, we’ve watched as our nation’s elected leaders listened to the calls of their constituents to rise up and fight to change our nation’s weak gun laws. Historic moments like a 15-hour filibuster by Sen. Chris Murphy and an overnight sit-in started by Congressman John Lewis did not go unnoticed.
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That’s why, instead of attending the one-month memorial Mass for our son, we decided to travel to Washington, D.C. to keep up this momentum — for Jerry, for the others killed in Orlando and for the thousands of Americans who have been killed or injured by gun violence.
We decided to spend this very sad anniversary urging our elected leaders in Congress to pass common-sense laws that will keep guns out of dangerous hands. We decided to thank leaders like Senator Bill Nelson and Representative Carlos Curbelo for standing up for public safety. We’ll ask Senator Marco Rubio — who as fellow Republicans, we have supported in the past — to stand with our family and put the safety of Floridians ahead of the extremist gun lobby.
The American public is outraged, and with good reason. We have seen how hate becomes deadly, most recently against law enforcement officers in Dallas, because our laws make it far too easy for those intent on causing harm to obtain a gun — and how the gun lobby has blocked efforts to pass sensible gun laws. And that’s why, it’s long past time to disarm hate.
While in D.C., we don’t want just thoughts or prayers from members of Congress. We want them to look us in the eyes and tell us: How will they work to make our nation safer against gun violence? How will they perform their constitutional duty to “Insure domestic tranquility” and “promote the general welfare” — some of the main roles of government according to our Constitution? How will they work to stand up to the extremist gun lobby and urge their fellow members to do the same?
Nothing we can say or do will bring Jerry back. But like so many before us and many who will sadly follow, we cannot sit by and do nothing. We cannot let another family experience this pain without knowing we have done our part to stop the carnage.
As a child, Jerry underwent several surgeries and wore a full body brace for many years. He had severe speech issues, which he worked very hard to improve – but that didn't stop him from running, playing and dancing. It didn't stop him from making friends and comforting strangers.
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There was one thing he excelled at, it was loving and sharing his love with others. He would iron a roommate’s uniform so he wouldn’t be late for work or have a glass of wine with his 80-year old neighbor without regarding their age difference. A co-worker from Disney World said Jerry was, “one of the kindest people you could meet.” It’s the truth that has been repeated by so many of the people whose lives were touched by Jerry.
He had more than enough love to go around in our large family. He would call us every morning to see what we were up to, and he would call us every evening to wish us a good night. His call would always end with, "Sleep well, love you and call you tomorrow."
Sadly, he is not calling us tonight, tomorrow, the next day, or ever again.
Jerry, in his own quiet way, was strong. And he was brave. It’s our turn to be brave for him. It’s time for our elected leaders to be brave for us. It’s time for action so that others can live, love, and dance without fear.
Maria and Fred Wright live in Miami and are the parents of Jerry Wright, who was killed in the shooting at Pulse nightclub. They are members of the Everytown Survivor Network.