This Wednesday marks a year since the tragic death of a 15-year-old girl in Chicago who was shot down by a bullet not intended for her.
Hadiya Pendleton had just returned from D.C. after performing at President Obama’s Inauguration, when she was shot at a park near her high school. She was a bubbly honor student who lit up her mother, Cleo Pendleton’s, days.
But as Wednesday rolled around, the family, including her father Nate Pendleton, had to face what Hadiya’s mother called “the darkest day of our lives.”
“I don’t look forward to the 29th at all,” said Hadiya’s father, Nate Pendleton.
“I’m afraid of the 29th because I remember what it felt like last year,” Cleo said.
That has not, however, stopped the two from speaking out against gun violence in communities all over the nation. On the one-year anniversary of their daughter’s death, both Nate and Cleo wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, calling for comprehensive gun control reform as a way to honor those lives lost by way of gunfire.
Read it below:
A year ago this month, our 15-year-old daughter, Hadiya Pendleton, a band majorette at King College Prep High School, marched in Washington as part of President Barack Obama’s inaugural celebration. Just a month later, we were back in our nation’s capital as guests of the president and first lady at his State of the Union address — but there was no celebrating this time.
In the month between these two events, our Hadiya — our smart, motivated and beautiful daughter — was murdered in Harsh Park on Chicago’s South Side on Jan. 29.
Instead of being lost in the unfortunately never-ending headlines of Chicago violence, our daughter quickly became the picture of our country’s gun violence problem. First lady Michelle Obama attended Hadiya’s funeral, and in the year that has followed, our family joined the president as he called for a national push to end gun violence — and we watched as our elected officials in Congress failed to pass common-sense gun legislation in April. At the time, none of it seemed real.
A year has passed and we are still learning to live with our new reality. Our baby girl missed Mother’s Day, her 16th birthday, Father’s Day, school dances, Christmas — and we missed her every day in between. Sadly, this isn’t just our reality. On average, 33 people are murdered every day with guns in this country, eight of whom are children like Hadiya — and every day, 33 new families are told, “We are sorry for your loss.”
We hear these words every time we talk about our dear daughter. The truth is we are sorry for the loss of courage from our nation’s leaders. We were proud to travel to Washington with Mayors Against Illegal Guns last February and to stand with the first lady during the State of the Union. During President Obama’s address, he told the nation that our daughter and other victims of gun violence deserved every effort from Congress to prevent more bloodshed. But when a bipartisan bill to expand background checks for all gun sales and keep guns out of dangerous hands came to the Senate floor in April, a minority of senators caved to the gun lobby and blocked the bill from passing.
The fact is that support for common-sense gun laws remains strong. In the past year, millions of Americans, from law enforcement officers to faith leaders to gun owners to moms, have stepped up to show their support for these reforms. We have seen some states take matters into their own hands, and we applaud states like Colorado and Connecticut that have passed laws to close background-check loopholes to ensure the safety of their communities.
Our leaders in Washington need to take notice that these states are not bold in their actions, but rather, they are sensible. These reforms are not about taking away constitutional rights or people’s guns; they are about saving lives. Our family supports the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms — we are not trying to take anybody’s guns away, we are just trying to ensure that nobody else knows the sadness of losing a loved one to senseless gun violence.
As we mark the first anniversary of our baby girl’s murder, we are recommitting to this fight. Last January, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, Conn., gun violence was a popular topic. But it is easy for politicians and the media to move on to the next “it” cause. However, we — and the many other parents and loved ones of those killed by gun violence — will not move on so quickly.
If we have the courage to wake up every day knowing our daughter is gone, then we demand the courage of our elected leaders to do everything in their power to end gun violence. We are not alone in this fight. We are joined by millions of people who want to keep their communities safe. We will tell our stories and do everything we can to ensure our country’s leaders know why this is so important. And if they don’t get it — we will support new leaders who do. Together we will win the fight against gun violence.
Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel Pendleton live in Chicago.
SOURCE: Chicago Tribune