In March, The Huffington Post began talking to teens and adults throughout the U.S. about their experiences with gun violence. This is one individual's story. You can read others here.
A. Romano is a soft-spoken, 17-year-old senior who lives and attends high school in southwest Detroit. Last year, Romano attended the funerals of three people she knew who were shot: two classmates and the father of her 6-year-old niece. She told her story to The Huffington Post on the condition we not use her full name.
I don't like walking to the store by myself. In the day, in the night, I don't like to be alone, period. I have a friend, I always take him to the store with me. If I have a really tall guy standing next to me, nobody will mess with me.
I've had three deaths that involved guns. The first was on a Friday, and I remember going on Facebook, and a bunch of people were saying, "Rest in peace." I couldn't tell who it was until I looked in the school yearbook.
They said she was in the car with her sister; they were picking somebody up and some guy came out of an abandoned house and just shot her car with an AK-47. I guess the guy that they were hanging out with wasn't really a good type of person, and that guy was trying to kill him but he ended up killing the wrong person. Her sister survived. She had a gun wound. The guy was fine.
I worked at the school office, and she worked there too. I wanted to know her better, but then I found out she was shot and killed. She was a sophomore. She was so nice; she was friendly. She had this big smile on her face, always.
I couldn't quite process what had happened. Then when you went to school you found out more, and it sort of, like, hit you. It hit everybody. Monday was the first day I think nobody was late.
At the funeral they had her mom, her dad and her brother sit on one side, and her sister sat on the other. When it came for them to close the casket, her sister collapsed in front of the casket. She didn't want to let go of her sister. That was hard to see.
Sophomores had it hard this year because another one of our classmates was shot with his dad's work pistol -- he was a police officer. We were just getting back from Thanksgiving, and, well, we went into third period and we get a call over the PA. They said, "All students go to the gym, teachers go to the conference room." Me and my friends were sitting there, and we didn't know what was going on. We could hear a couple kids making jokes like, "Oh, what if somebody else died."
You just didn't want to believe it. The teachers came with the principal, and the looks on their faces, you knew that something bad happened. The principal announced it, and then she announced it again. She had to repeat herself a couple times, and then I saw a senior start to cry.
Hearing about all these school shootings has really affected my dreams. I dream about my school getting broken into, somebody coming in who's not supposed to. Stuff like that just goes through my mind. I have these fears of my school being shot up.
I had two funerals to go to in September. My sister's oldest daughter, her dad was killed. They were going to rob a store, but they didn't have any weapons on them because nobody was going to be in the store. The storekeeper had been sleeping in the store because it had been getting broken into recently and he was getting tired of it. He saw them trying to break in so he grabbed his AK-47 and sat behind a door and waited for them to come in. He slammed the door shut so it was dark, and he locked the door and shot them all. None of them died but my oldest niece's dad. Everybody else, I guess when they were shot they were knocked out from it, but him, he was moaning, so the guy flipped him over and finished him.
There were a lot of bullets, like 20-something. We know he wasn't doing anything right, but if you knew he wasn't doing anything right, at least let him serve the time in jail for it.
When he was with us he was always happy. You wouldn't even dream about him stealing stuff. He had just gotten out. He was put away for four years, five years. My mom says she remembers telling him, "Don't do anything that would hurt your daughter."
My niece, she sort of doesn't understand that he's gone. She never really got to see her dad until she was six, and the first time she got to actually hug him was when he was out of jail. She's been talking about him a lot lately, writing little notes and sticking them on the fridge, waiting for him, like, "I love you, please come home, I miss you." It's really hard to look at.
We have a chapel at the school, and we have a picture of my two classmates, and connecting them is all their friends. Sometimes for prayer we'll go over there, but not so much now. I guess everybody's sort of, not really forgetting about them, but going back to their routines.
I'm not the kind of person who goes out and talks to people about my problems. I sort of keep it to myself.
I'm going to hopefully move down to Tennessee with my dad. I don't spend too much time with him, but one month in the summer, so I'll go down to hang out with him for a while. He works on a ranch with horses. Mostly to get away from Detroit. When I go down there, people, they say hi to you. It's different from up here.
As told to Kate Abbey-Lambertz.
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