High school freshman Aaron Willis sat in the auditorium at Miami Jackson Senior High School. Once part of the football team, Aaron is now paralyzed from the waist down.
"I got to learn how to do the same stuff but differently," he said.
His father, Sammie Willis, was just one of the speakers affected by gun violence who took part in a roundtable discussion at Miami Jackson Senior High on Monday.
Before winter break, Aaron Willis was shot in the back while riding his bike in Wynwood. The new reality of seeing his son using a wheelchair is one his father cannot get used to.
"I am not alright. I am never going to be alright again," said Sammie Willis, tearing up.
As Washington squabbles over the gun control debate, the victims of gun violence and their community are brainstorming concrete ways to end the cycle. It is not an easy undertaking, but judges, police officers, and other community leaders came together to discuss the problem at Monday’s forum, hosted by the National Action Network.
"Snitches get stitches. That has to be eradicated," panelist Sherman Henry said.
Community activist Luther Campbell agreed residents have to reverse that way of thinking.
"If you commit a crime on my block, we're going to tell on you," Campbell said. The audience applauded.
From 2009 to 2012, 99 young people were the victims of homicides in Miami-Dade County. Eighty-one of them were killed in shootings, according to Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho.
"Our schools are safe. Our children are not dying in school,” the superintendent said. “Children are dying on the way to school, on their way home from school. During weekends, at night, in parks, in the mean streets of Miami.”
He said it doesn't get any easier to attend the funerals of students like 16-year-old Bryan Herrera. The honor roll student from Miami Jackson Senior High was shot while riding his bike just before Christmas. He was on the way to a friend's house to do homework.
"After four and a half years as superintendent, of attending every single burial, funeral, viewing for our children who die untimely deaths in our community, I tell you now, enough is enough,” Carvalho said.
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