Dorothy Paugh was one of the first people to share her story with me. Like the women with whom Jen and I work with in Baltimore, Dorothy is no stranger to gun violence.

Dorothy’s father killed himself with a gun when she was only nine years old. He left five children, a wife, and a void filled with silence. Young Dorothy knew her father took his own life and she quickly learned not to speak openly about it. Though her peers at school taunted and teased her on the playground, she remained stoic.

This photograph is taken at the place where Dorothy’s middle son, Peter, shot himself decades after his grandfather’s death. This time, Dorothy did not stay silent. She dedicated tremendous amounts of time and energy into an exhaustive study of suicide.

Decades after losing her father to suicide, her son takes his own life. Meet Dorothy and go #BehindTheStatistics Click To Tweet


Dorothy quickly learned that the vast majority of individuals who attempt suicide and live rarely attempt again. The great tragedy of suicides using a gun is how lethal it is; people rarely get a second chance.

Dorothy was the first person to bring Jen and me to the location of her loved one’s death. It is a beautiful wooded area tucked behind a suburban strip mall. The walk is treacherous.

We crossed a creek and climbed over logs for about 20 minutes before we reached the secluded location. Peter called the police moments prior to talking his life. He told them that he was going to kill himself, where he was, and asked them to come and collect the gun so a child would not find it or him. I never met Peter, but this last act has always touched me. Even when he was in such great pain, he was concerned about the impact of his actions on others.

Dorothy, while working full-time, dedicates a large portion of her spare time to educating people about suicide prevention. The quiet little nine year old girl, once stunned and shamed into silence by her class mates, is now a vocal and fearless activist.

Read Dorothy’s story in her own words in Vogue.

Peter Lapa-Lilly: December 21, 1986-April 13, 2012

Liz Banach
Written by Liz Banach, Executive Director, Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence



  • Ladd Everitt says:

    Dorothy, I am so terribly sorry for the loss you have experienced in your life. I marvel at your strength, your courage, your ability to stand up and make a difference on the issue of gun suicide. You have inspired me to do more to prevent these tragedies from happening.

  • Kate says:

    Thank you for sharing your story & helping others find their way.

  • Mimi Dean says:

    Sending you love& light for healing.

  • Kathleen says:

    Dorothy, you are making a difference by telling your story. May you always have strength and inspiration to guide your work. I am so sorry for the loss of your precious Peter.

  • Grace says:

    Thank you for sharing your story (and Peter’s story) with us. I feel connected to this story because my son’s name is also Peter. Your Peter was so caring that he thought of others even when he was struggling so much. Thank you, Dorothy, for the work you do educating others. It is a beautiful legacy to your son and your father that you are working to help others in this way.

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