“I Will Never Forget That Day”
“I was in my 4th period Holocaust history class. We were presenting our projects on hate groups found on college campuses…As we sat at our desks working on our computers after presenting our projects, we began to hear loud pops…I thought I was going to die. As I laid there, I begged God to please make it fast…
“My classmates pulled me behind a filing cabinet where I called my mom and my dad and said what I thought would be my last goodbyes. I told them how much I loved them, and asked that they please tell my brothers the same. I was so petrified that I began hyperventilating. My classmates had to cover my face so the shooter wouldn’t hear my cries and come back. I will never forget that day. What I saw. What I did. What I experienced. What happened to my classmates.”
This was 17-year-old high school senior Aalayah Eastmond’s testimony during a February 6 Congressional hearing on gun violence prevention, describing how she survived the mass shooting one year ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the murders of 17 of her teachers, classmates, and friends, including two students who were killed in her classroom. Aalayah was forced to hide behind her friend Nicholas’s body to survive. She came to Washington to beg members of Congress to pass common sense gun legislation that will help keep her and millions of children safe and protect students in America’s schools from experiencing the same trauma she did. Aalayah has been speaking out for the past year about the horrors of that day, defying cruel adults who claimed she was a “crisis actor” and working through her nightmares and sense of survivor’s guilt. As a survivor of gun violence she is far from alone.
In their new report A Nation of Survivors: The Toll of Gun Violence in America, Everytown for Gun Safety explains the scale of the shameful burden we place on our children and communities: “Every year, over 36,000 Americans are killed in acts of gun violence and approximately 100,000 more are shot and injured. With death and injury tolls this high, America is undeniably a nation of gun violence survivors. But the impact of gun violence extends far beyond those killed or injured. Gun violence in any form—whether a person witnessed an act of gun violence, was threatened or wounded with a gun, or had someone they know or care for wounded or killed—can leave a lasting impact on individuals.”
Every day in America is that day for someone new. Aalayah’s family had already experienced gun violence—her uncle was killed by a gun when he was only 18—before Aalayah survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Everytown estimates millions of Americans have witnessed a shooting, had a friend, family member, fellow student, or colleague killed by a gun, or otherwise felt the deep pain and trauma of gun violence. They include children who have witnessed one parent kill another with a gun or seen a gun used at home as a source of control; those who have lost a friend or family member to suicide with a gun and are left with grief about what they might have done to prevent it; parents and family members who left a gun stored unlocked in a dresser or under the front seat of a car where a child found and used it; and gun owners whose guns were used by others, intentionally or unintentionally, to take a life. When we count the victims of gun violence, far too we often we do not include all the survivors who feel the pain indirectly but often just as intensely.
Survivors often are left with profound grief, anger and fear; physical and behavioral health challenges; economic burdens; and overwhelming guilt. The Everytown Survivor Network is just one resource for people who have experienced gun violence in any way. At the same time that survivors seek healing and peace, many of them, like Aalayah, are also on the front lines seeking justice and change for those they have lost.
The February 6 hearing where Aalayah testified was the first Congressional hearing on gun violence in eight years, a sign of progress after far too much delay. The good news is that the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 8) and the the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 1112), both of which strengthen existing background check laws, were passed by the House Judiciary Committee and will be considered by the full House of Representatives. In a nation of survivors we must all demand more of a sense of urgency and effective action from our leaders to stop the slaughter of our children.
During the hearing the gallery was filled with young people, parents of children killed at Parkland, and other survivors demanding that our leaders do something to protect them, not guns. Aalayah ended her testimony: “Rather than listen to special interests, I ask you to listen to the nation’s young people and the overwhelming majority of Americans, who have had enough. We have had enough of the gun violence rampant in our schools, in our movie theaters, our places of worship, in nightclubs and restaurants, on our streets, and in our communities. Enough. We have all had enough. I hope you have had enough too and use the power the people have vested in you to do what is right.” May God help enough adults in America choose to stand up and protect the children God has entrusted to our care!
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Hoyer Slams Trump’s Border Emergency Claims, Says There is no Crisis
By BRIAN ABATE and AMBRIAH S. UNDERWOOD
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON (February 13, 2019)—With the threat of another government shutdown looming, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, took aim at President Donald Trump’s claims of a border emergency, saying “there is no crisis.”
“The bottom line he found is (the shutdown) isn’t good for the country, it’s not good for the economy it’s not good for our federal employees, but it’s not good for every American who is served by the federal government,” Hoyer said at a Capitol Hill press
Hoyer seemed confident that another shutdown will not happen, but said that he wasn’t sure what Trump would do, adding the president “hasn’t indicated that he won’t sign.”
The House and Senate are expected to vote as early as Thursday on the final legislative package that includes some funds for more border fences and beds for detainees—far less than the nearly $6 billion Trump sought for a border wall. Congress must pass the bill and the president must sign it by a Friday deadline to avert another partial government shutdown.
Trump expressed confidence that he would get his way on border security.
“I want to thank all Republicans for the work you have done in dealing with the Radical Left on Border Security,” Trump tweeted. “Not an easy task, but the Wall is being built and will be a great achievement and contributor toward life and safety within our Country!”
Trying to combat Trump’s claims of an emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, Hoyer visited the El Paso area last weekend with Reps. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas; Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico; Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pennsylvania; and Xochitl Torres Small, D-New Mexico.
“The first, most dramatic thing we found was there is no crisis at the border,” Hoyer said.
The House’s No. 2 Democrat said there wasn’t one specific factor that needed to be addressed to make the border more secure, but rather a combination of many factors, including more personnel and additional technology and infrastructure such as heat sensors and drones.
After speaking with border personnel, Hoyer said, “nobody said there was a crisis at the border.”
“That doesn’t mean that there weren’t challenges at the
border —I want to make that clear,” Hoyer added. “(It) doesn’t mean that we don’t need to make sure that our borders are secure.”
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Governor Larry Hogan Signs Executive Order on Maryland Census
Establishes Statewide Complete Count Committee to Ensure Full Participation in 2020 Federal Census
By PRESS OFFICER
Maryland Governor’s Press Office
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (February 15, 2019)—Governor Larry Hogan today signed Executive Order 01.01.2019.03 creating the Maryland Complete Count Committee to develop, recommend, and assist the Maryland Department of Planning as part of the upcoming 2020 Census. The executive order directs the committee and the Department of Planning in the administration of a Census outreach strategy to encourage Maryland’s diverse population to fully participate in the 2020 federal decennial Census.
“A complete and accurate count of Maryland’s population is essential to the state since it determines Congressional representation, state redistricting, and federal funding allocations for the next 10 years,” said Governor Hogan. “It is of the utmost importance that every resident is counted for the 2020 Census.”
Governor Hogan has appointed Lilian Castillo-Harris and Walkiria Pool to serve as co-chairs of this effort, in which a total of 15 additional members may be part of the committee. The committee will be tasked with developing and implementing, in conjunction with the Department of Planning, a community outreach strategy to encourage full participation in the 2020 Census. Encouraging full participation may include developing partnerships and coordinating with local governments, community organizations, faith-based organizations, and private-sector partners.
Lilian Castillo-Harris is the President and CEO of Workplace Management Group LTD/Hispanos Sin Fronteras, a business enterprise offering services and encouraging the Hispanic community to grow and improve their business organizations. Ms. Castillo-Harris is a resident of Frederick County.
Walkiria Pool is the president and co-founder for Centro de Apoyo Familiar (Center for Assistance to Families), a nonprofit organization located in Prince George’s County focused on helping to revitalize and stabilize communities and families through economic, social, and educational empowerment in collaboration with faith-based organizations. Ms. Pool is a resident of Prince George’s County.
The Census is a critical process for determining not only federal funding to states, but also important economic decisions for local communities. This year alone, Maryland will receive more than $13 billion in federal funds that use Census data to determine funding levels.
In addition to apportionment and representation in Congress, Census data is also used to support decision making for many types of planning and programs from economic development, transportation, and emergency management to public health and human service activities.
The majority of the federal funds Maryland receives directly benefits the state’s most vulnerable populations, including children and senior citizens. Some of the programs directly impacted by the Census include: Medicaid, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), highway construction and the National School Lunch Program.
State agencies and departments will participate in Census activities and designate a Census coordinator to assist in the effort. The committee will prepare an interim report due to Governor Hogan by Dec. 31, 2019, which will include recommendations to achieve a complete count of Maryland’s population. The census will be taken on April 1, 2020.
It is critical to note that all Census information is confidential and protected by federal law. Please visit https://census.gov/ to learn about how the Census and federal funding benefits your community.
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