June 20, 2013
It was supposed to be a night of celebration. On April 21, Gregory Jackson Jr. was walking home from his cousin's bachelor party in downtown Washington, DC when he came across two men fighting on the street.
"We tried to keep walking past it but the altercation escalated and turned to gunshots," the 28-year-old said. Jackson got caught in the crossfire.
"I was running and I remember my leg going numb while I was running." A bullet pierced Jackson's calf, damaging two major arteries. "I just looked down and saw all the blood."
Jackson, a University of Virginia grad, had moved to the nation's capital for a job as the Southern region director for Organizing for Action. One of Jackson's biggest responsibilities was to build support for stricter gun laws.
"The biggest thing was the expansion of background checks," Jackson said. The week of the shooting had been a tough one for Jackson. Four days earlier, Congress voted down the bipartisan Manchin-Toomey amendment., which would have expanded background checks for gun purchases. "That was very frustrating and disappointing," he said.
The irony of fighting for gun control and becoming a victim of random gun violence isn't lost on Jackson, who says he is more determined to push forward.
"I'm more inspired than ever to continue that fight," Jackson said. But his crusade on Capitol Hill will have to take the backseat as Jackson focuses on his own recovery.
After undergoing four surgeries at a D.C. hospital, Greg moved back to Fluvanna County to live with his parents to heal. Shortly after he moved back home, he developed blood clots in his injured leg and had to be rushed to UVa Medical Center for two additional surgeries.
Jackson says he still feels a lot of pain and throbbing in his leg will have to depend on crutches for another two to three months.
"I have to reassess what is normal. The new normal for me is not running a 5k or playing full court basketball for three hours. It's going to be simple walking."
There has been a bright spot in his road to recovery. President Obama personally called Jackson from Air Force One to wish him a speedy recovery. "That was pretty cool," Jackson said.
As for the person responsible for the shooting, the police don't have a lot of evidence and have told Jackson there aren't any suspects in the case.
"To know this person could do the same thing next week or did it last week... that's really frustrating."
Jackson's goal is to get back to work and continue to fight for tougher gun laws. "It's inspiring and encouraging but sometimes I still get depressed about the long road ahead."