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Couple responds to mass shootings after daughter was murdered at Aurora theater

Sandy and Lonnie Phillips traveled to Uvalde, Texas to comfort survivors.

UVALDE, Texas — Two parents who lost their daughter in the Aurora theater shooting almost 10 years ago know the pain families in Texas are going through right now. Since their daughter's death, they have responded to other mass shootings to comfort survivors. Now, that includes Uvalde, Texas. 

Sandy and Lonnie Phillips' daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was killed at a movie theater in Aurora in 2012.

While they were in Buffalo, New York to help survivors of a massacre at a supermarket, the couple learned students and teachers were killed at an elementary school in Texas. 

"It brings back so many horrible memories," Sandy Phillips said. "We lost Jessie 10 years ago in the tragedy in Aurora and our first response was to Sandy Hook about five months later."

The Phillips have been responding to mass shootings ever since Jessica was killed. On Sunday, they were in Uvalde, Texas -- responding to their 20th mass shooting to help those who are just starting that grieving process. 

"Grief is something you can't explain until you have gone through it," Lonnie Phillips said. "It is different each time as time goes on. Of course, we learn how to deal with it."

The couple said they travel to the scenes of mass shootings because nobody reached out to them to share what they should expect next. 

Now the Phillipses are telling people who've lost someone what to prepare for and what could come a decade later.

"When Jessie was killed, if I had a handgun in the home I might not be here today because I was so devastated," Sandy Phillips said. "But I am here 10 years later. We are productive. We are happy."

This trip is harder than others. Most of these students killed were born the year Jessica died.

"There's something about that that is pulling at my heartstrings more so than usual," Sandy Phillips said. 

Sandy and Lonnie want to see change so another family doesn't know this pain. After a decade, they think this time will be different.

"This is a watershed moment, I think, especially for Texas," Sandy Phillips said.

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