Susan Pritchard, an amazing woman I met through my work with Moms Demand Action, called me just a few days after my father passed away to take me up on an offer I’d made during the summer. She asked my help to write a piece honoring her son Daniel’s memory. It was an incredible responsibility, and an emotional task that helped me more than she can know. The letter was recently printed in the Verona-Cedar Grove Times, and I share it with you as an example of the power of hope and the sometimes fragile resilience of those left behind.
Daniel Pritchard’s Family Reflects Years After His Death
Five years ago, our son Daniel was shot and killed in an attempted robbery in Verona. A second trial of one of his alleged killers has ended in a mistrial. Again. In the current climate of frustration and fear and distrust in our justice system, it feels selfish to join in the chorus demanding more from ourselves and those systems we rely on to keep order and public safety in our communities. In our family, in our own small way, we have chosen to move forward in love even as we continue to work for justice for our son Daniel. We have taken healing inspiration from Booker T. Washington’s words: “I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate them.”
Aside from our individual choices in healing from our shared family loss, in honor of Daniel, we created the Daniel Pritchard Foundation that works to “Let civility, respect and common decency prevail.” Through community generosity to honor Daniel’s life with his friends and family, we have raised funds for scholarships based on student perseverance in the face of obstacles, families facing great hardship and turmoil, and for community members who work tirelessly improving the lives of others. Recent recipients include the Homeless Bus and Elaine Lane of David’s Shoes. We have also worked for gun reform through expanded national background checks and against trafficking of illegal guns through the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.
Those of us who have lost friends and family to gun violence and other terrible, sudden incidents, each move forward in individual ways and at our own pace. No one method is best for everyone, but what we in Daniel’s family and close circle have found is that our desire to live up to Daniel’s example – to help keep his memory and legacy alive – has overcome the resentment. It has allowed us to break the cycle of anger that once threatened to overcome our hopes for the future. Don’t mistake our positive outlook for compliance. And don’t think that those who work to make the world a better place don’t also work for justice for our loved ones. The two goals are tangled and intertwined, just as our memories and mourning will always mingle and coexist.
As the New Year begins, and as the anniversary of our son’s and brother’s death approaches, we wish each of you a peaceful year of civility, respect, and common decency.
A version of this letter first appeared in the Verona-Cedar Grove Times