Meghan Sawitzke is a freshman journalism major and writes “Acts of Random Kindness” for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
Editor's Note: This story contains discussions of gun violence, domestic violence, mental health and suicide.
She looks into his eyes, then down the barrel of the gun.
She stutters through her tears as she tries to talk him down, terrified the slightest move will end her life.
That’s how I imagine my friend’s final moments.
Her laugh was contagious with a smile that lit up the room. When you were in a bad mood, she would make funny faces around silent peers just to lighten your spirits.
She was in love with drowning out the world around her with music, and she would share that peace with anyone willing to love her. Every time you passed her in school, she would have her earbuds in; but if you stopped to talk with her, she would offer you one to listen with her. This habit continued outside of school; she would even fall asleep listening to Juice Wrld.
Her hugs were warm and cozy, reminding you of a fire on a cold winter day. She loved her friends like family, leaving her vulnerable to the tragedy that awaited her.
She was a strong and confident young woman with a beautifully kind heart. It’s still hard to believe a simple piece of metal paired with evil took her from us.
Her name was Alyssa Pinardo. She was 18 and excited to go to Cuyahoga Community College to study computer science and technology before starting her own business. Eleven days before graduating from Brunswick High School and 18 days before senior prom, her boyfriend, Logan Robertson, shot her in the head.
“I won’t be able to walk her down the aisle and give her off to someone that loved her,” Nick Pinardo, her father, said because he got a phone call every parent dreads…
“We lost our daughter today.”
As a journalist, I want to make a difference through stories that add value to the world. I do not want to write about my friend's brutal murder to make a point, but I must.
Alyssa’s story is one of so many stories we increasingly hear. They shock and enrage us for a time, and then we fall into complacency without making change. Then, another shooting, and another and another — still no major change. Our government refuses to take action, so we must.
One of Alyssa's closest friends was Tori Dexter, a survivor of domestic violence herself. She received a phone call from Nick around 5:30 a.m. saying she was gone.
“I didn’t want to believe it. I thought he was lying,” Dexter said. “All she wanted was to be loved and cared for. [Robertson] would constantly verbally abuse her, but that can be just as detrimental as physically… She always said she wanted to escape.”
Within 24 hours, the news was out and people gathered in support of each other.
On May 4, 2022, a candle lighting was held at her school parking spot where her family, friends, teachers and community came together to release purple and white balloons in remembrance.
Teachers and counselors came with boxes of tissues as tears fell from the eyes of those who attended. Some of her closest friends wore shirts saying, “Justice for Alyssa,” which continued as a hashtag on social media platforms.
According to Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “Ohio has weak gun laws and a correspondingly high gun death rate. The state fails to require background checks on gun sales and has very weak protections for victims for [sic] domestic violence and violent hate crimes.”
Much like Indiana, Ohio is a free carry state, supporting other state laws by allowing the purchase and ownership of guns at the young age of 18.
The United States has the highest ranking in civilians with guns in the household which directly correlates with the high number of homicides, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Although this data was taken in 2017 and 2019, the results are astonishing. As gun laws continue to adjust in the U.S., the numbers presumably rise.
We trade the right to own guns for the reality that we shouldn’t walk alone at night. We carry pepper spray and equip our homes with alarms. We can’t honk without fear the driver may pull out a weapon, and we avoid heated discussions because we might anger someone.
Scientific research has proven that the young adolescent mind is not fully developed at the young age of 18, yet we still place guns in their hands with the assumption they won't harm themselves or others.
Furthermore, drinking and purchasing alcohol under the age of 21 is perceived as unsafe, because it can cause “aggressive behavior, property damage, injuries, violence and death.”
Society prohibits the purchase and consumption of alcohol, yet they allow minors to acquire a gun. Why is owning a gun any different than obtaining alcohol at such a young age if the outcomes are similar?
The Constitution’s interpretation of the Second Amendment evolves with our gun laws, which can lead people to perceive weapons are less harmful than an alcoholic beverage.
“A lot of people don’t understand that when this amendment was made, it was made so people could protect themselves from a tyrannical government. It was not made so that people could have arsenals,” David Knerem, history teacher and mass gun violence survivor, said.
The Second Amendment has progressed with society's new perspective; our right to bear arms is now perceived as our right to protect ourselves and our property from harm, rather than to overthrow a government that holds too much power.
The ability to own a gun seems to give minors a sense of control increasing the propensity for violence. Now, we sit and mourn the loss of a loved one because an 18-year-old male legally had access to a gun, killing an innocent young woman who tried to escape.
Robertson abused his right of the Second Amendment by using it against a normal civilian simply because the government continues to allow this behavior with inadequate restrictions.
Alyssa’s family did everything they could to allow the Brunswick community to be part of the mourning process with them. This community support came in the form of a service, a vigil, painting her high school parking spot, signing her cap and gown and so much more.
Nick is part of the Ohio chapter of the international group Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA). They have established a strong foundation, and their mission is to help anyone who may be suffering from an abusive relationship.
Alyssa used to ride on the back of Nick’s bike when going on rides for the organization, so she received the name Orsetta, meaning little she-bear, from all of the BACA brothers and sisters.
Nick’s passion to help those in need started long before Alyssa’s passing; in fact, he was never aware of her situation until he found pamphlets, a break-up letter and a plan to escape in her book bag following her murder. He taught her how to defend herself whether the other person is armed or not, but Robertson never gave her the opportunity. Nick wants to be able to help others and teach them how to seek the assistance they need.
“Tell friends, don’t hold it in. You are not the only one going through this, and there are many, many others. There’s different ways to get help. So many people want to see you succeed and grow up,” he said.
Death is a natural part of the circle of life, but being murdered is not. It's been over nine months since she passed, and I am still struggling to process it.
It’s emptiness. It’s feeling helpless. It’s loneliness. It’s fear. It’s a combination of emotions, to each extreme, colliding together in a swarm of consciousness.
We will never gain the ability to forget the feelings that accompany a tragedy, but we do have the ability to make a difference. We find strength in our moments of weakness, so we need to build a better foundation for our community, city, state and nation. We need to set an example of compassion, empathy and love rather than converting to hatred.
We need to do something, and we need to do it now, before society bleeds out, before people keep dying in the hands of bloody murders. Inadequate gun laws and mental health should not be the cause of an innocent soul reliving their life before it all goes black nor an excuse for one's evil driven actions.
Gun control has simply gone unchecked by the government and mental health has been dismissed by our society. It's time to end the helpless feelings and descending hole of fear that surrounds our communities. We must not let violence destroy us. We must rise above and create a safe space to volunteer peace in the midst of war.
If you are a victim of domestic violence or know someone who is suffering, please reach out. The national domestic violence hotline is happy to help; all you have to do is call 800-799-7233 or text START to 88788.
Contact Meghan Sawitzke with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MSawitzke.