MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Fred and Maria Wright are living with the unrelenting pain of losing a child.
Their son, Jerry, is one of the 49 people murdered inside the Pulse nightclub last June.
“We don’t want anyone else to go through this,” said Maria. “This has been the hardest year of our lives. There have been moments that I have thought I’m not going to be able to do it.”
Monday marks the one-year anniversary of the shooting and as family members and close friends of the victims gather in Orlando to mark the solemn occasion, the Wright’s are pledging to continue their fight for common sense gun legislation.
“When hate gets a gun, what follows is death,” Maria said. “We need to find a way to keep hate from getting a gun.”
The Miami couple wants gun laws that keep weapons from people who preach hate or have evil intentions and they still wonder how Omar Mateen — a man investigated by the FBI — could get high powered weapons to take so many lives.
“How can it be that a terrorist, a guy that has been on the FBI list twice, can easily go into a store, pass a background check because he passed a background check,” Fred asked.
The Wright’s still cannot bring themselves to go to the Pulse nightclub. It’s too painful, they say.
The couple keeps their son’s spirit alive through their memories and tiny things like beads and bracelets that urge an end to hate. They, along with their children and family members, painted a picture of Jerry as part of an anniversary event and Jerry’s sister painted a portrait of her brother that will be displayed at a memorial. It’s all part of the painful process of coming to terms with the sudden, violent death of a child.
“They’re a part of you,” Maria said. “I poured myself into my children and it’s like a part of me is no longer here.”
The couple, married 39 years, are getting through this tragedy together and with the support of their family, including a new grandchild named in Jerry’s honor.
The Wright’s are keeping abreast of the developments in the case. They are awaiting the results of an FBI investigation into the shooting and want Noor Salman, Mateen’s wife, charged with aiding and abetting her husband. The Wright’s also want answers about the unfolding of events in the nightclub that night and whether quicker action by police could have saved lives. But they’re not pointing fingers.
“I’m 100 percent that we need to get to the bottom of what happened for peace of mind but we’ve decided not to blame the people who simply were trying to help our kids,” Maria said.
“From what we can tell they did everything they could under the circumstances,” said Fred. “We can’t second judge them and it’s not gonna bring our kid back.”
It is important to the Wright’s and the families of other victims, to make sure that Jerry didn’t die in vain. They hope the violence at Pulse spurs changes that make others safer.
“I would like to ask everyone how they would feel if their precious child was mowed down in the circumstances mine was and it seemed no one gave a damn,” Maria said.