Two years ago, in an instant, our lives changed forever. Our daughter Hadiya was shot and killed at a park near her school here in Chicago. Hadiya was bright, talented and compassionate. Her smile lit up the room. She was a spectacular source of joy and pride for our family. Only a week before her death, she performed in President Obama’s second inauguration festivities in Washington, D.C.
Sadly, there are too many families across the country with stories like ours. Every single day, 88 Americans’ lives are cut short by senseless gun violence and countless others are shot and survive. Rarely a day goes by without headlines detailing the latest shooting — in Chicago and in cities around the country.
Following Hadiya’s tragedy, her classmates came together and asked everyone in the community to band together to take a stand against gun violence. Just as hunters wear orange to alert other hunters of their presence, Hadiya’s classmates asked the community to wear orange to symbolize the value of human life.
Wearing orange is a way to honor Hadiya’s life and the lives of all others affected by gun violence, and it has sparked a movement across the country. It’s called #WearingOrange.
This isn’t a statement about the Second Amendment or gun ownership. It’s about recognizing that we have a gun-violence problem in our community and in our country. Put simply, if you believe there is more we can do to save American lives from gun violence, wear orange.
On Tuesday, instead of celebrating Hadiya’s 18th birthday and high school graduation, we will be participating in the first ever National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Thousands of people across the country — gun-violence survivors, gun owners, mayors, law enforcement officers, celebrities and more — will wear orange on that day.
By wearing orange, we reaffirm the right of every American to live a life free from gun violence. It’s a simple message that’s catching on. In the same way pink has become synonymous with breast-cancer awareness, and red has become the universally recognized color for AIDS awareness, we hope orange will be the same for those affected by gun violence.
Two years have passed, and getting through June 2 each year without Hadiya never gets any easier. But it helps to know that we are not alone. We are united with her friends and thousands of other Americans in calling for more to be done to end gun violence in America. National Gun Violence Awareness Day is a day to come together, no matter where we stand politically, and honor those who have lost their lives.
We have decided to dedicate our time and energy to making sure that no one has to experience the grief we feel in losing our daughter. There is nothing that we can do to bring our daughter back but we will do everything in our power to prevent others from having to experience what we have. On that fateful day a gun stopped our Hadiya from going to college, having her own family and bringing joy to everyone she met.
We have traveled all over the country to share our story, raise our voices and stand with all other families affected by gun violence in the hope that one day, no parent will have to hear the news their child has been shot and killed. We ask that every American join us on Tuesday.
Stand up. Make your voice heard. Wear orange.
Cleo and Nate Pendleton’s daughter, Hadiya, was fatally shot Jan. 29, 2013 on the South Side. She was 15.