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.
Twenty-year-old Benecia resident Deshawn Deandre Morris was fatally shot on June 7, 2012. Seventh-grader Sophiyah McGriff, Deshawn's younger sister, reflects on her brother's death:
Deshawn was a good person. He was my favorite brother. It was hard for me when it happened because he was the closest to me [of any of my three siblings]. We had a lot of things in common; we were really close.
He was always protective. Like if something happened, he would go talk to that person. He encouraged me … One time this girl called me a name and I called him and he came down and started talking to her and said, "If you mess with my sister again … well, you better not mess with my little sister again." He protects me … he was like my role model.
When we were younger, we made up this thing it was called a "kiss kiss" and it would be a double kiss. When we gave each other a kiss that would be my favorite memory. It was kind of a secret.
He got shot in the neck on June 7, 2012. His funeral was on my birthday. He graduated on that day, too. The inside of me just ended. I thought I wouldn't be able to live without Deshawn. It's hard. I still feel the same way as when it happened.
[On the night he died] I went to my friend's house … our neighbor, at like 10 at night, came to my friend's door and said, "Sophiyah, if you need anything just come to my door. Your mom had to go somewhere." In the morning I went home and my Mom told me what happened … I started crying. I went to a birthday party that day and I just wanted to get away because it was too sad. I just went to the park by my friend's birthday and just stayed there ... I couldn't even be in the house.
The funeral was horrible. He was in this casket and, whenever I would look up, it was just him, but he wasn't breathing. That was the saddest part. Whenever I looked up I started crying. He was a piece of my world and it's hard to live my life without him. He's not going to be at my eighth grade graduation; he's not going to be at my 16th birthday; he's not going to be at my wedding. It's just scary.
This girl texted me and said, "Sophiyah, I know what you're going through, my brother got killed, too. If you need anyone to talk to, you can just text me."
I never really thought about guns before Deshawn died, not like how I do now.
I know four people who have been shot. Like my brother's really good friend Mario. He was killed by the police. They shot him 31 times through the windshield. They shot him until he stopped moving.
Mario was like an older brother to me, he always used to call me "Lil Sis." When that happened it was horrible. When my mom told me how many times he got shot, I couldn't even believe it. He was really nice and he was like one of my brothers and he loved me. We were really close, too. He was at Deshawn's funeral.
As told to Aaron Sankin.
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