Photo courtesy DeAndra Dycus.
That Saturday, at the birthday party, a fight broke out. A chaperone asked one rowdy guest to leave. Minutes later, shots rang out. The only person wounded was DeAndre, a bystander. A bullet shattered his skull, leaving him paralyzed and unable to speak. At Riley Hospital for Children, DeAndre underwent 10 surgeries over a 37-day period.
The experience led his mother, DeAndra Dycus, 38, to found the non-profit Purpose for my Pain to speak out against gun violence. Dycus also now volunteers with Everytown Survivor Network and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
This week, she’ll be one of nine citizens from around the country to share their stories at the Democratic National Convention.
Were you politically involved before Dre’s shooting?
No, that’s a great question, and someone asked me that this morning. And I’ll say that the biggest lesson that I’ve learned in this is don’t wait until it knocks on your door to get involved. Be proactive.
How soon did you get involved after the shooting?
I went to a Moms Demand Action meeting while Dre moved from intensive care to comprehensive care. And one of my friends called me and said, “I heard about this group in town. It’s in a park downtown. You should go.” Something about gun violence. And I went to that park and I met Julie Chester. I’ll never forget. She was our chapter leader at the time. And she took my information, and I was very moved by the speakers. Maria Robinson, oh, God, I’m still friends with Maria to this day now, it’s crazy, from New York. She was talking about losing her nephew. She had lost several family members to gun violence. I was so moved by her story. And at that time, Moms was nowhere at 6 million members.
How do you communicate with your son Dre, who can no longer speak?
When I spoke at our NRA event last year, I said, “Dre’s silence is so loud.”
When I visit my son, I sit there. I play music. A lot of times Dre does, like, this bopping dance. But the communication has been diminished with COVID, and that greatly diminishes our bond.
So I will talk to Dre as if he can hold a conversation with me, because I’m waiting for the day where he responds. You know? We get some head nods, he pumps his fist in the air, which I believe is hello. He can babble a little bit if he’s in a good mood. So I talk to him because I still have faith and believe in one day he’ll say “Mom” again.
What are you hoping that former Vice President Joe Biden does, if elected, on gun policy?
Well, I’m hoping that Vice President Biden will stand up to the NRA as he has done in the past. I am hoping that he works with Congress. We don’t want guns taken away. We don’t want everyone going and knocking on people’s doors and confiscating guns. We just want guns out of the hands of those who should not have them, like those who get them illegally.
We want universal background checks so that those who do get guns, they have gone through the proper measures to obtain a gun just like we do when we get a driver’s license. Same thing now in order to keep children safe. When I talk about it, it seems so simple, but so many people make it so complex. We just want to save our children.