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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Trigger Warning: This Article Talks About Gun Violence and Death.

Dear Athen,

I remember your last day.

In history class, the lesson was on the United States Confederacy. It was a slow day, and you came in late. It felt like our teacher paused the lesson to roll her eyes at you. She didn’t know it’d be the last time you walked in late. Throughout the class, you were seemingly the only one awake that day— making jokes here and there to lighten the mood. We would giggle, and our teacher would try to move on.

At lunch that day, you waited in line with Naomi and I. Naomi was my best friend, but she was your girlfriend. We stood in the third lunch line, and I reluctantly laughed at your silly comments about me. It was often you’d make slightly inappropriate jokes, and we’d laugh but roll our eyes at the same time. I had no idea that was the last time we’d be in the lunch line together.

Then, you said you were gonna skip the rest of the day. You wanted to get out of there and do something more exciting. I remember Naomi’s face dropping— until you invited her with you. Truthfully, my heart sank. I looked forward to our lunches every day, but I let you guys go and have fun. I didn’t know that was the last time I would see you. I watched you guys walk out that door. I didn’t know that was the last time I would see Naomi and Athen together.

That day was December 2nd, 2020. That night, you were shot and killed. Alone. I went to bed that night, with no idea the following day what we would hear.

Dear Athen,

I remember the first day without you.

School was silent that day. Either that or I just couldn’t hear anything else but my thoughts. Time felt like it couldn’t move any slower. In history, no one spoke. There wasn’t a lesson that day— instead our teacher asked us to just journal about anything we’d like. I wrote about the loud silence in the room. The sniffling. The muffled sobs. The sound of tissues being pulled from a box. The sound of the clock ticking. The sound of me swallowing nothing.

I remember lunch without you. The lunch line was emptier that day. Naomi showed up to school at this time. Our hug was tight. I tried not to cry, so I could be someone she leaned on. All we talked about was you. I don’t know how she could be so strong. It hadn’t even been 24 hours.

I remember the ceremony they held for you. I remember sobbing in the night. I remember a man reading your mother’s letter to you, her son. I remember breaking when he read the words, “I miss my son’s thin fingers”. It broke me. I remember Naomi hunching over and wailing a cry only ever described in the Bible. I remember holding her, telling her how sorry I was.

All she could say was, “It’s okay.”

All I could say was, “It’s not okay.”

The trauma that follows is unfair. While I was keeping it together to support my heartbroken friends, I was falling apart on my own. I was having anxiety attacks when my mom was gone longer than she said. I was hyperventilating when my dad didn’t pick up the phone. I had nightmares of people I love dying. I saw one gun on my TV and ended up in a ball on the floor, hyperventilating, and reciting “it’s okay.” Anxiety filled my life. Life was full of silence, tears, and fear.

It’s not okay. In less than five minutes, silly moments with you became our last memories.

Today is two years since it happened. Today is also two years since my opinion on gun violence became personal. My opinion on gun violence had experience behind it. This is what people mean when they say “It could be anyone.”

Dear Athen,

I still think about you every day. There’s a part of myself that will forever be 16 years old with you.

Howdy! I'm Ameenah, and I'm a Social Media Manager for Her Campus at TAMU! I am currently a Freshman Communication major! I have an endless list of creative hobbies, but I am usually reading, painting, or creating short "movies".