Voice of Survivors: Giving voice to victims of gun violence

The title of the project is called Voices of Survivors. Its mission -- to give survivors of gun violence an opportunity to speak about their experience while giving them a platform to create positive change.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – The flashing police lights and the yellow caution tape surrounding the perimeter of a crime scene are common images when it comes to gun violence, but those visuals don't tell the whole story.

"It went through my hand. And because I was in a dancing position, it struck me in my collarbone," Sheronda Morris said. "And as the bullet traveled, it hit my C-6 in my spinal cord."

Morris remembers the night almost five years earlier when she said she was just trying to break up a fight between friends when she was shot. She lived, but doctors told her she would never be able to walk again.

"At that point, we didn't know what to do but have faith in God and strength to believe I knew I would walk again," she said.

Like Morris, Diontae Reed was also a victim of gun violence, struck by a stray bullet in 2015. He was 13 at the time. Doctors also gave him a bleak prognosis.

"The doctors told me that my lungs collapsed," he said. "And all I did was cry because I thought i wasn't going to be able to breathe well."

Both Reed and Morris have recovered physically thanks to countless hours of physical therapy and a strong support system. Morris even walked herself down the aisle on her wedding day earlier this summer. But the trauma of being a survivor of gun violence remains a scar.

"When you're a survivor, you go through just about the same pain because every time you see the news, you see yourself," Morris said.

More than 2,000 people have been wounded by gun violence in the Louisville Metro in the past 15 years, including Morris and Reed, but the victims are more than just numbers. A new study by the Pegasus Institute is studying the effects of gun violence in Louisville, and the researchers are going directly to those most affected by it, interviewing people like Morris and Reed.

"They really don't know what you were going through in the hospital, and they don't know what you're going through after you leave the hospital," Reed said.

By sharing their stories, the volunteers hope to start a conversation about gun violence.

"I would want to reach out to the teenagers about gun violence and stuff, and getting shot and being in the streets isn't the right way," Reed said.

"There are better days," Morris said. "Even though you survived it and you could not have, it's okay to be a survivor."

The study began interviewing people in September and is still looking for more people willing to share their experiences with gun violence. Anyone interested can contact Christopher 2X at 379-5292 before November 1.

The report is expected to be released on December 11.

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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