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National Gun Violence Survivors Week

Vincent Perez: Sharing your story is the way we bring community about us

Vincent Perez and Shane Columbo smile together

Photo: Vincent Perez (left) and Shane Colombo (right)

Vincent Perez was ready to spend the rest of his life with his fiancé Shane Colombo when things changed forever. They were preparing for a move to Chicago, Illinois in 2018 after spending a few years in a long distance relationship. Hours after arriving in his new city, Shane was struck and killed by a stray bullet just a block away from their new home.

The last time Vincent saw Shane in person was as he was getting on the train to go to Chicago—a moment that was hard for Vincent to process once he learned Shane was killed. 

“I essentially take for granted that moment,” Vincent said. “To not see him after that was very challenging because it messed with my head.”

The city where they planned to move in and start their lives together instead marked a different future for Vincent—navigating life without Shane and the grief that came with it.

“I thought I was going to plan a wedding, I never thought I’d have to plan for the loss of my partner,” Vincent said. “Now moving through life is challenging.”

Shane and Vincent met while they were both in a fraternity at San Francisco State University. Their relationship was playful and loving. They loved dancing, attending farmers markets, cooking, and simply living their lives together. 

“Shane and Vincent were amazing together,” Tonya Colombo, Shane’s mother, shared. “They had mutual respect, integrity, and intelligence with an excellent work ethic.”

After losing Shane, Vincent was not sure how to process his grief. He was in therapy and support groups, but still found it difficult to convey what he was experiencing. 

“I come from a Latino background, right? Like we machismo, you don’t show your feelings, you go through it, you tough it out. And it wasn’t until later on where Moms Demand Action came into my life, where I was just like, ‘you guys get it,’” Shane expressed. “To have this many people holding you up, especially when you have so much weighing you down in terms of your loss and your grief, has been amazing.”

A close friend sent him details on the Everytown Survivor Network and Moms Demand Action and said, “you should apply for this.” So he did, along with Shane’s mother, Tonya Colombo. At first, Vincent did not resonate with the term, “survivor.” As he became a part of the Everytown Survivor Network community, he began to realize that he is a survivor too. 

“When I first initially heard the term survivor, I was just like, that doesn’t make sense. I’m not a survivor. I am a victim of this, but I truly do survive Shane every day.

– Vincent Perez

Vincent has worked to process his grief by sharing his story with others. He has also bonded further with his to-be mother-in-law, Shane’s mother Tonya, through their shared loss and experiences as part of the Everytown Survivor Network. They both share the loss of Shane, and as part of the Everytown Survivor Network, they’re advocating for each other, too.

“Knowing that we are doing this together makes it easier,” Vincent said. “[Tonya] is strong and honest with herself which inspires me.”

The voices, faces and stories of survivors of gun violence are critical to creating lasting change. Together, Vincent and Tonya are sharing Shane’s story to honor his memory and advocate for an end to gun violence.

“It’s important to share. It’s important to share your story and get involved because that’s how we honor the ones we love. It’s the way we process. It’s the way we grieve. It’s the way we bring community about us.”

– Vincent Perez

“Vincent is a natural born leader. He always has been,” Tonya said. “Then there is his exceptional intelligence and drive. He is charismatic, pragmatic, and direct… He is kind and caring, like Shane. I love him.”

While their healing journeys are still in progress, Vincent and Tonya continue to be supportive of each other. Their community in Moms Demand Action and Everytown Survivor Network keeps them strong.

“Moms Demand Action and Everytown has been a light in such dark times,” Vincent said. “I often felt like I was going through this alone, but there are many others who understand what I am going through. If you feel like you need support, or want to talk about your experience, being involved is a great place to start.”

Join the Everytown Survivor Network

The Everytown Survivor Network is a nationwide community of survivors working together to end gun violence.

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