Since Ronald Reagan built this country with his bare hands, the president and the first lady have traditionally invited meaningful guests to each and every State of the Union address. Tonight will be no different — featuring topical American heroes like a 16-year-old cancer researcher, NASA’s “Mohawk Guy,” and Apple CEO Tim Cook — but it will be more tragic. At least twenty victims of gun violence will be in the audience, invited by an array of Democratic congressman in support of President Obama’s gun-control agenda, where they’ll be joined by others who have had to overcome some horrible circumstances. A partial selection of their somber stories are below.
Name: Lieutenant Brian Murphy
Story: “Lieutenant Brian Murphy was the first police officer to arrive at the scene of the tragic Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin last August. Lt. Murphy directly confronted the shooter, and took fifteen bullets to his head, neck, and body before the rest of the police force arrived. When his fellow officers moved to assist him, he waved them off and told them to protect the threatened citizens who remained in the temple. When asked how he was able to respond with such bravery, Lt. Murphy responded, ‘That’s just the way we’re made.’” (via White House)
Name: Josh Stepakoff
Story: As a 6-year-old at the North Valley Jewish Community Center, Stepakoff was shot twice, once in the leg and once in the hip by a gunman who injured five, including three children, and later killed a postal worker. (via ABC News)
Name: Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel A. Pendleton Sr.
Story: “Cleopatra and Nathaniel’s daughter Hadiya Pendleton was murdered on January 29, 2013, when she was shot and killed in Harsh Park on Chicago’s South Side. Hadiya had participated in President Obama’s public inaugural celebration on January 21, 2013. She was an honor student and band majorette at King College Prep High School.” Two people were charged in the shooting yesterday. (via White House)
Name: Sergeant Carlos Evans
Story: “Sergeant Evans, born in Puerto Rico, was on his fourth overseas deployment when he sustained injuries in Afghanistan that resulted in the loss of both of his legs and his left hand.” (via White House)
Name: Natalie Hammond
Story: A teacher at Sandy Hook who was injured in the shooting.
Name: Carlos Soto Jr.
Story: His 27-year-old sister, Victoria Soto, was killed at Sandy Hook while attempting to protect her schoolchildren.
Name: Kaitlin Roig
Story: “Kaitlin Roig has taught first grade for six years at Sandy Hook Elementary, and has always had a passion for education and working with children.” (via White House)
Name: Desiline Victor
Story: “Desiline Victor, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Haiti and retired farmworker, is 102 years old. On October 28, the first Sunday of early voting in Florida, Desiline went to vote at her polling place, a local library. When she arrived at 10:00 a.m., wait times were up to six hours. Determined to vote, she stood in line for three hours, until 1:00 p.m. After citizen advocates complained that the elderly woman was struggling on her feet, a poll worker asked Desiline to come back at a later time. On Desiline’s second visit that evening, she was finally able to cast her ballot.” (via White House)
Name: Gabino Sanchez
Story: “The South Carolina husband and father of two U.S. citizen children is fighting deportation. Sanchez entered the country when he was 15 years old and has been working and living peacefully in the U.S. ever since.” (via CBS)
Name: Matt Gross
Story: “Matt Gross, a New Jersey native who was shot in the head in 1997, at the age of 27. Gross was one of several victims wounded during a shooting attack on the observation deck of the Empire State Building.” (via White House)
Name: Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly
Story: Unfortunately, we already know this one.
And then there’s Ted Nugent. God bless America.