PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Ann Marie Crowell recounts the 1997 accidental shooting death of her 12-year-old son, Brian.
By BRIDGET TURCOTTE
SWAMPSCOTT — A candlelight vigil in memory of the 26 victims of a fatal school shooting in Newtown, Conn., four years ago was a reminder of one local mom’s mission.
Ann Marie Crowell’s 12-year-old son was killed in an accidental shooting on Christmas Eve in 1997. Brian Crowell, a seventh grader at Belmonte Middle School in Saugus, was shot by his 14-year-old best friend while the two were playing with a loaded handgun at the friend’s home.
At a vigil at The Unitarian Universalist Church to remember the 20 children and six educators who were killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Crowell said the day brought back the worst memories of her life.
“I can’t bring Brian back but I also can’t say, OK, Brian is gone,” Crowell said. “My mission is to get my story out and raise awareness. I feel my story is a tiny piece of the puzzle. If I could get the attention of one person, that’s one person’s life that could be saved.”
Crowell said she is not anti-gun but believes gun owners need to take responsibility for their weapons by keeping them unloaded and locked.
The day her son was killed, his friend pulled out a handgun he recently discovered beneath his mother’s mattress. He removed the bullets and tossed them on the dresser without counting them. He pulled the trigger and on the third click, the gun fired, Crowell said.
“His last words to his friend were ‘I can’t believe you shot me,’” she said. “Since Brian’s death, which is coming up on 19 years, it hasn’t gotten better. It has gotten worse. I have a group of friends now. We support each other. But we don’t want any more members.”
Crowell said she met Lynnette Alameddine of Saugus, who also attended the vigil, a few years ago. Her son, Ross Alameddine, 20, was one of the victims killed during a mass shooting in 2007 at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Thirty-two people were killed and 17 were critically injured in the attack on the school’s campus.
“It’s very important to keep awareness going,” Alameddine said. “The more people have informed conversations about it, the more that can be done. Even if one person can be saved from going through the hell we’ve gone through.”
Both moms have become activists for gun safety. Alameddine has joined various organizations, including Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a movement that advocates for stronger gun laws, and Everytown for Gun Safety, the movement to end gun violence. Crowell is the president of Mother on a Mission, Inc., a nonprofit organization with a mission to educate the public about the dangers of guns left accessible to children.
Dhruba Sen, president of the Massachusetts chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said an estimated 32,000 people die from gun violence each year. The organization’s goal is cutting the number of gun related deaths in the United States in half by 2025.
Sen said the organization estimates more than 120,000 people have died from gun violence since the Sandy Hook shooting, and that it will be the No. 1 cause of death in 2016 with more fatalities from gunshot wounds than motor vehicle accidents.
A candle was lit and bell rung for each of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. The 50 State Vigil was sponsored by the Brady Campaign, Million Mom March to Prevent Gun Violence and the Newtown Action Alliance.
Bridget Turcotte can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte