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Hello, my name is Ann Marie Crowell
On December 24,1997, my life as a wife and mother of 3, was tragically turned upside down with the accidental shooting death of our youngest child - our 12 year old son Brian. After keeping a vigil at the hospital with our family and friends, the doctor came to us with the news that there was nothing more they could do for him and that he only had a few heartbeats left and that we could be with him. On that night we witnessed the end of our beautiful and handsome son's life.
Here it is, Christmas Day, and instead of celebrating the Holiday, we were faced with picking out a casket and planning our son's funeral. This was all wrong. A parent should not have to bury their child. The next few days were all a blur. And somehow we gained the strength to greet all the people both young and old who came to pay their respects to Brian.
The days and weeks that followed were very trying. My husband had gone back to work, our son and daughter, back to school. With the help of our parents, all the acknowledgments got written and sent and things were starting to settle down. But the empty feeling that was always present made everyday life more of a chore. The grieving process was now in full swing and we didn't know how we would handle it. You see it is different for everyone.
Among the many sympathy cards received, were letters and cards from people I didn't even know. Many of these people sent their names and phone numbers in case I just wanted to talk. Within a few weeks of Brian's funeral, I found myself calling on these people, one every night. Just talking to them was a kind of therapy for me.
I had been in contact with a Massachusetts group, Stop Handgun Violence. They offered much needed support. About 6 months after Brian's death they invited me to a press conference in Boston. I decided I would go and they asked if I could tell my story. Although I was very nervous, and not sure I could speak at all, I stood at the podium and began to tell my story. After a few sentences, a feeling came over me where I actually felt Brian's presence and could hear him cheering me on "Go ma, go ma".
That first press conference was the beginning of my mission. Since then I have joined forces with many different organizations. Through Stop Handgun Violence, I was contacted to help launch a campaign in Washington, D.C. named Common Sense About Kids and Guns. Having the opportunity to speak out has given me a good feeling that just maybe someone is hearing what I am saying and hopefully I am preventing another child's death and another family from going through what we have been going through.
During the summer of 2001, I was again contacted through a recommendation from Common Sense to an organization in New York named PAX, which is Latin for Peace. They were launching their ASK (Asking saves Kids) campaign. Simply put we were encouraging parents to ASK before sending their child to a friend or neighbor's house "Is there a gun in the home?" And if so, "How is it stored?"
It would have been very easy to pull the sheets over my head and stay in bed and turn away from living my life. But I knew that I still had a husband who was grieving in his own way, and 2 other children who needed my love and support. I needed to be strong for them and for all my family and friends. They were all worried about how I was doing since I had suffered a massive stroke just a year and a half before Brian's death. So now through my mission of getting the message out to others, I am keeping Brian's memory and spirit alive and I hope I'm making a difference in the lives of others.
Ann Marie Crowell