Parents of Aurora theater victim offer support in Sutherland Springs

Few people can understand the pain that comes from losing a loved one in a tragedy like the one we saw in Sutherland Springs a little more than a week ago.

Few people can understand the pain that comes from losing a loved one in a tragedy like the one we saw in Sutherland Springs a little more than a week ago.

But one couple who understands the heartache all too well spoke with KENS 5 about that pain, and what life is like since losing their daughter in an all too familiar mass shooting.

Lonnie and Sandy Phillips lost their daughter Jessica during the shooting at an Aurora Colorado movie theater five years ago.

The San Antonio natives came to Sutherland Springs Monday to offer support to those who now find themselves in a similar nightmare. 

"It's like a large fraternity that's nationwide, coast-to-coast, north to south, and it's, unfortunately, a fraternity that is a lifelong membership that is one you don't get to resign from," Sandy Phillips said.

The Phillips travel around the country to meet families who have lost loved ones to gun violence.

"We didn't have anyone who had been, who had already gone through what we were going through," Sandy said.

Their daughter, Jessica Ghawi, died in 2012 after a gunman opened fire on a Colorado movie theater.

Today, they wore Jessica's picture on their chests as they visited the Sutherland Springs church where 26 people died just over a week ago.

Their message is simple.

"We are here with our hearts and our hands out to love on you and talk to you if you need it," said Lonnie Phillips.

The Phillips hope to be a resource for families in Sutherland Springs today and for years to come.

"It's one thing to have faith, and that will see them through a lot of this, but it's a whole 'nother thing to know other people understand all the emotions that you're feeling," said Sandy. "From anger to doubt to frustration to sadness to grief that is sometimes to the point of wondering if you can take the next breath."

They know there isn't much they can say that will take away the pain, but being here helps give them a purpose in a place where everything seems upside down.

"We've been through this for five years now, we are nowhere near healed," said Sandy. "There is no healed. This is a pain that you carry with you for the rest of your life."

The Phillips spend a lot of their time advocating for tougher background checks for people wanting to buy guns.

They also created a non-profit for survivors and the families of victims from tragedies like these.

© 2017 KENS-TV


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