Why We Should All Wear Orange on National Gun Violence Awareness Day

Will you #WearOrange?
Project Orange

Do you remember where you were when you learned about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut?

I was just a few months into my job here at Parents magazine. It was December 14, 2012, and we were getting ready for a staff holiday party in our office. Like most moms, I had the holidays on my mind, presents to buy and plans to get our Christmas tree that weekend. I'm sure that Friday morning, similar thoughts were on the minds of many Sandy Hook parents, too, as they dropped their children off at school.

When we began to get word of the tragedy in Connecticut, needless to say, we at the magazine, like you, were completely distraught. One of my colleagues shut her office door and sobbed. I wept at my desk, wrote my family, and texted a teacher-friend to let her know I was thinking of her. What was to be our Parents staff party that afternoon instead became something more akin to a support group, and several of us said what so many said after Sandy Hook: Now that 20 children and six adults were shot dead inside what should be the safest place in the world, their elementary school, something about gun violence in this country would have to change. A few months later, Parents brought attention to the threat of guns at home, too, including friends' and relatives' homes, with the cautionary article, "Guns Within Reach."

Four years after Adam Lanza shot his way through Sandy Hook's locked front entrance, depressingly little has changed. Since Sandy Hook, a gun has been fired on school grounds nearly once a week, as this article from the Los Angeles Times reports. As a mother, looking at this color-coded map of U.S. school shootings nauseates and infuriates me.

Maybe it takes the willfulness and resourcefulness of kids to come up with one simple, brilliant idea to mobilize action and outrage. Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was a girl from Chicago who, while seeking shelter from the rain with friends in the park, was shot in the back and killed, one week after marching and performing as a majorette with her high-school band in President Obama's 2013 inaugural parade. Hadiya's friends brainstormed the idea to wear orange on her birthday—that's today—in her memory, to call attention to gun violence and demand change. They chose orange because orange is loud, and it's the color hunters wear to protect themselves in the woods from others. "Project Orange" has since grown into National Gun Violence Awareness Day, being recognized throughout the country today.

By wearing orange, you're showing your support for common-sense solutions to save lives. Just yesterday, we got another stark reminder why they're so necessary.

In the words of Danielle Vabner, on Twitter:

"I will #WearOrange in memory of my brother Noah, killed at Sandy Hook. It doesn't have to be this way. #NotOneMore."

Gail O'Connor is a senior editor at Parents and a mother of three.

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