Age 19 , New York
My daughter, Jessica, was my only child and the light of my life. She was not only beautiful on the outside, but on the inside as well. She was smart, talented, kindhearted, funny, had an infectious laugh and brightened up any room when she walked in. She had dreams, goals and aspirations for her future and was pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice. That Sunday, 8/27/06, the day before she was to return to college to start her sophomore year at the University of New Haven, she was shot and killed while standing outside a deli talking with some friends – the innocent victim of a random drive-by shooting. The perpetrator, a 17-year-old, randomly fired six shots out of a moving vehicle. All it took was one bullet to take my precious daughter’s life. In the blink of an eye, my life forever changed. I went from a proud, fulfilled mom preparing her ambitious and bright daughter to start her second year of college, to a shocked, grieving, broken-hearted mother, preparing her one and only child to be buried at age 19. I constantly think of my daughter and how her life would have been today at 28. When I see the people that she grew up with, maturing into productive young men and women, getting married, starting families, living and working in their chosen fields, although I celebrate their accomplishments, it pains me to know I will never experience all those joys with Jessica. Her life was cut short when it was just beginning.
To honor my daughter’s memory and legacy, I founded The Jessica N. Santos Foundation, (www.rememberingjessica.com), a nonprofit 501c3 organization that provides scholarships to students to assist them in pursuing higher education. I’ve also become an advocate for gun control issues in the hopes that another parent or person is spared from suffering the pain that gun violence causes. Gun violence affects not only the victims, but their communities. We have to strive to make changes to prevent these types of tragedies.