Voices raised against gun violence

Vigil on anniversary of Ariz. shootings draws Columbine survivor

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

Published:

Updated: January 8, 2012, 10:35 PM

 

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For information on Heidi Yewman’s book, visit Beyond the Bullet.

On the one-year anniversary of the shooting of 19 people in a Tucson, Ariz., Safeway parking lot, about 30 people in Vancouver gathered to encourage gun safety and promote ways to prevent gun violence.

The candlelight vigil was at St. Paul Lutheran Church and featured a survivor of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.

Andrea Bannister of Vancouver said she was a 17-year-old junior at Columbine when that Colorado massacre left 15 dead and 21 injured.

She said her best friend, Corey DePooter, died and her boyfriend, Austin Eubanks, was wounded. Both were in the library.

Bannister said she wanted to see what was happening when shots rang out and a substitute teacher refused to let her leave the classroom.

“He saved my life by not letting me go,” she said. The teacher later led students down a hallway, out an exit and over a chain-link fence and told students to “run like hell.”

“It still affects my life today, and it always will,” Bannister said. “I still have nightmares. … I am not a victim, but I am a survivor, and I always will be.”

The Vancouver event was one of 65 on Sunday in 22 states, said Heidi Yewman, a writer who lives in Salmon Creek. She is a former Littleton, Colo., student and her teacher and coach, Dave Sanders, died in the massacre.

Yewman is on the board of the national Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and president of the Washington chapter of the Million Mom March. She is the author of “Beyond the Bullet,” a 175-page book that tells 19 stories of people affected by gun violence.

“The stories keep me going,” Yewman said of her work to prevent gun violence. “It’s definitely a passion.” She said her work is to prevent gun violence, not take guns away from people. She said 51 percent of gun deaths are suicides and that many deaths are caused when guns are not locked up.

Touched by violence

During the service, Yewman read the name of each person killed or injured in Tucson. She said a 9-year-old girl was among those killed. Among those injured were U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. Yewman also mentioned a recent victim of gun violence, Margaret Anderson, the 34-year-old ranger who was shot and killed while setting up a roadblock at Rainier National Park on New Year’s Day.

Mayor Tim Leavitt told the crowd that when he was a 6-year-old boy in Yakima, his best friend died after playing with a shotgun.

When Yewman asked if anyone in the audience had lost of friend to gun violence, four people rose.

Sabrena Jackson of Camas, the sister of Andrea Bannister, said her best friend, Al Hadley, 18, committed suicide by shooting himself in 1990.

She said the tragedies in Colorado “brought me closer to my sister and my family.”

The women’s mother, Laura Bannister of Felida, said, “We all moved here (to Clark County) two years after Columbine.” She said they needed to leave.

Yewman said that while Arizona is a long way away, “That’s the thing, it (gun deaths) does happen here.”

She said 28 people died from gun violence in Clark County in 2011. She said that figure comes from the Clark County medical examiner.

She said 588 people died from gun violence in Washington state in 2011; 466 of those were suicides.

She said she is not against the National Rifle Association, but said statistics say that people are 22 times more likely to die of gun violence if there is a gun in the home. Her message: think about guns, talk to children about the dangers of guns and lock them up.