They had lives and plans and dreams. And in a matter of seconds, gunfire changed everything.
On January 11, six gun violence survivors from around the country gathered together for a roundtable discussion in New York City to talk about the shootings that forever altered their world and made them a part of a club that no one ever wants to join.
“It’s so important to hear these stories because for every one of them, for every statistic, that’s a family shattered,” says Sara Macaluso, whose father died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1992.
PEOPLE partnered with the nonprofit advocacy organization Everytown for Gun Safety for the roundtable discussion, moderated by actress and advocate Julianne Moore, ahead of National Gun Violence Survivors Week, which runs from Feb. 1-8.
“I’m so incredibly moved by them and struck by their bravery,” Moore tells PEOPLE. “What’s so brave and so amazing about these activists and survivors is that they are willing to change the culture, to change legislation, to make sure it doesn’t happen to another individual.”
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Each survivor opened up and shared their heart-wrenching stories, and explained why they are advocating for strengthening gun laws around the country. (Watch the roundtable discussion on People Features: Gun Violence Survivors Speak Out.)
Julvonnia McDowell, 40, had the group in tears as she recounted her last phone call with her 14-year-old son Jajuan, who was visiting relatives four hours away in 2016 when he was fatally shot.
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“He was going to the movies with his grandmother and I said, ‘Okay, I love you, bud,’ because I always called him my rosebud. He said, ‘I love you, too, Mama,'” she recalled. “Four hours later, I received the call that my son had been shot. Every part of my being felt like it left my body.”
Members of the group share their stories so others will know the pain and grief left in the wake of gun violence. They hope their words will register with elected officials in charge of gun violence prevention legislation.
“You get impatient, but then you think how long it takes for a movement to take hold and for change to happen — how long it took for marriage equality, how long it took for women to get the right to vote,” Moore says. “Things do take time.”