My latest project is the fruition of an idea I’ve had for nearly a decade (but which, coincidentally, has been more front and center of a national debate in recent months). As a reporter, I’d cover shootings routinely in Detroit, but if no one died, I’d often have to keep the tale to a brief. That always bothered me because I knew that even if everyone survived that incident, lives were changed — and not just the survivors’. Their family members and friends would be affected, too.
To tell the stories presented in AFTERMATH, I’ve been traveling the country interviewing various survivors chosen because their backgrounds and circumstances differ so we could talk about many different issues survivors face — PTSD, ongoing disability, guilt, repression. Some were innocent bystanders. Some picked up arms after their shooting in retaliation, and today, a few have blood on their hands.
If you've heard and liked the segments of My Favorite Murder that focus on the bad-ass survivors, this is for you. It's rawer, no doubt, because there are of course some dark issues that linger after someone has had a bullet enter their body. But these people's tales are as inspiring as they are harrowing.
As this project dropped, I was amazed (I shouldn’t have been, but still ...) at how many people assume that if we tell survivors’ stories, we must be pushing gun control. The project intentionally steered clear of politics, aside from exploring survivors' beliefs when the shooting resulted in that becoming a big part of their lives. On the whole, this isn’t a policy project. It’s an empathy project.
One person told me that telling these stories is manipulative and indicates I have an agenda.
All I can say is that the stories are honest. They’re at turns brutal and infuriating and hopeful and inspiring. No matter your stance on gun control, I think you should understand what survivors go through. Wherever you land on the issue, you owe them to at least be informed and, more importantly, empathetic.
Those accusing me of having an agenda are right, and my agenda is simple: I aim to tell human stories to help people understand the aftermath of gun violence.
I'm an author, journalist, photographer and college instructor.