Good thing we can turn off our cameras on Zoom calls. Because as Victoria Wylie played a slideshow of a year’s worth of memories on a recent celebratory call, I found myself getting a little emotional:

There, a photo of the first meeting of the support group for paralyzed gunshot survivors on July 15, 2019. It was in a basement room at Temple University Hospital, and I worried that no one but Wylie, the group’s facilitator, would show up.

Victoria Wylie (left), whose brother was gunned down in 2008 and formed the Donte Wylie Foundation, joins in the discussion with Jalil Frazier (right) and John Muldrow (center), as paralyzed gunshot survivors got together for the first time to talk about creating a support group at Temple University Hospital July 15, 2019. Frazier is part of an online community but came up with the idea of a fellowship of survivors to meet in person.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Victoria Wylie (left), whose brother was gunned down in 2008 and formed the Donte Wylie Foundation, joins in the discussion with Jalil Frazier (right) and John Muldrow (center), as paralyzed gunshot survivors got together for the first time to talk about creating a support group at Temple University Hospital July 15, 2019. Frazier is part of an online community but came up with the idea of a fellowship of survivors to meet in person.

And there, one of the many group photos taken at the Carousel House recreation center in West Philly, where the meetings were later held each month as the group grew.

One of the photos commemorated the night a young man showed up in dark sunglasses and barely said a word — at least until Ty Shoemake and others wore him down like relentless big brothers. By the end of the night, the glasses were off and everyone was smiling.

From left, Jalil Frazier, Tyrone Shoemake, Charles Horton and Jaleel King laugh and joke around with group facilitator Victoria Wylie after their survivors group meeting at the Carousel House in West Philadelphia on Monday evening, Nov. 18, 2019. (Heather Khalifa/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)
HEATHER KHALIFA / MCT
From left, Jalil Frazier, Tyrone Shoemake, Charles Horton and Jaleel King laugh and joke around with group facilitator Victoria Wylie after their survivors group meeting at the Carousel House in West Philadelphia on Monday evening, Nov. 18, 2019. (Heather Khalifa/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

Another photo captured Mykkia McDonald, the first woman to join the group just months after she was shot. I will never forget how McDonald rendered the room silent the night she lifted her hoodie to show the scar that nearly split her stomach in half.

Mykkia McDonald, 24, shows the surgical scar on her stomach while she speaks to teens about her shooting at the paralyzed gunshot survivors group at the Carousel House in West Philadelphia on Monday evening, Nov. 18, 2019. McDonald attended for the first time, and is the only woman so far to join the group. She was shot 10 times around seven months ago while she was out to get food in North Philadelphia.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Mykkia McDonald, 24, shows the surgical scar on her stomach while she speaks to teens about her shooting at the paralyzed gunshot survivors group at the Carousel House in West Philadelphia on Monday evening, Nov. 18, 2019. McDonald attended for the first time, and is the only woman so far to join the group. She was shot 10 times around seven months ago while she was out to get food in North Philadelphia.

And, oh, the photos of the Christmas party. Wylie, part task master, part big sister, went all out: red tablecloths, music, food for days.

That night, the support group became a family.

The gunshot survivors group held a holiday party at the Carousel House in West Philadelphia on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. (Heather Khalifa/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)
HEATHER KHALIFA / MCT
The gunshot survivors group held a holiday party at the Carousel House in West Philadelphia on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. (Heather Khalifa/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

“One year!” Wylie exclaimed while the others on the call Wednesday night cheered. They laughed when she playfully held up a bottle of sparkling apple cider in celebration.

The group was started last July after Jalil Frazier, a 30-year-old gunshot survivor I had been writing about, confided that as he struggled to rebuild his life, he found the most comfort by connecting online with other paralyzed survivors. Frazier, a young father, was shot in 2018 while protecting three children during a robbery at a Philadelphia barbershop.

Tamira Brown (back center) assists Jalil Frazier (center) with getting out of the living room and onto the front porch. The multiple and steep stairs leading from the front porch to the sidewalk are a major problem for Frazier. Jaylin Frazier-Brown 3, looks up at Frazier from the steps.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer.
Tamira Brown (back center) assists Jalil Frazier (center) with getting out of the living room and onto the front porch. The multiple and steep stairs leading from the front porch to the sidewalk are a major problem for Frazier. Jaylin Frazier-Brown 3, looks up at Frazier from the steps.

I had no idea if I could really make good on my promise when I told him that if a support group for paralyzed gunshot survivors didn’t exist, I’d help him start one. But I put out a call, and month after the month, I watched the members grow not only in number, but also in confidence.

In February, I proudly watched Frazier and Jaleel King testify at a City Hall hearing on gun violence. The conversation on gun violence, they told politicians, was too often framed between those who lived and those who died, with little thought (or services) for those who suffered life-altering injuries.

Jaleel King, of Philadelphia, speaks in front of City Council members during a special committee on gun violence in City Hall on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. King was accompanied by Jalil Frazier, left, and Victoria Wylie, facilitator for the support group for paralyzed gunshot survivors, to bring awareness of the issues they face.
TYGER WILLIAMS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Jaleel King, of Philadelphia, speaks in front of City Council members during a special committee on gun violence in City Hall on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. King was accompanied by Jalil Frazier, left, and Victoria Wylie, facilitator for the support group for paralyzed gunshot survivors, to bring awareness of the issues they face.

Who could have guessed that less than a month later, the world would stop?

As everyone struggled to come to terms with the coronavirus, I worried about the effect of isolation on the survivors still digging their way out of the physical and emotional aftermath of their injuries.

I was thrilled when Wylie moved the meetings online, but wondered if the group would survive.

They only got stronger. Until recently, they met virtually every week. Now, they meet every other week.

Unable to meet in person because of the coronavirus, members of a support group for paralyzed gunshot survivors turn to video chats to stay connected.
Helen Ubiñas
Unable to meet in person because of the coronavirus, members of a support group for paralyzed gunshot survivors turn to video chats to stay connected.

Leon Harris, 30, is among those who call in regularly. Same with King.

Harris was a 17-year-old honors student when he was shot by robbers as he walked home from his job in 2007. King, 44, was 8 when he was shot by a South Philadelphia neighbor who was angry that kids were setting off fireworks and tried to quiet them with a sawed-off shotgun.

Both joined the group in hopes of helping Frazier, but found renewed perspective in a group they wished existed when they were putting their shattered lives back together.

Paralyzed gunshot survivors get together for the first time to talk about creating a support group at Temple University Hospital July 15, 2019 after one recent survivor, Jalil Frazier, came up with the idea. After they began to share their stories, they all wheeled closer together to continue their discussions. From left are Tyrone Shoemake (cq-no R), Anthony Starks, John Muldrow, and Leon Harris.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Paralyzed gunshot survivors get together for the first time to talk about creating a support group at Temple University Hospital July 15, 2019 after one recent survivor, Jalil Frazier, came up with the idea. After they began to share their stories, they all wheeled closer together to continue their discussions. From left are Tyrone Shoemake (cq-no R), Anthony Starks, John Muldrow, and Leon Harris.

“A lot of us didn’t have this when we were going through it,” said Charles Horton, 49, a longtime Philadelphia disability advocate who was shot 31 years ago.

As the call came to an end, there was a rush of “Love y’all! Love y’all! Love y’all’s” before, one by one, they clicked off.

Until next time.

And then my phone rang. It was Frazier, who had started it all.

Jalil Frazier, left, speaks with Tyrone Shoemake during the gunshot survivors group at the Carousel House in West Philadelphia on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. The group was having a holiday party for its final meeting of the year.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Jalil Frazier, left, speaks with Tyrone Shoemake during the gunshot survivors group at the Carousel House in West Philadelphia on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. The group was having a holiday party for its final meeting of the year.

We reminisced about the day we blindly plotted the creation of the group. He teased me for never knowing how to take no for an answer, including the day I knocked on his door to ask him to share his story with me.

And then he said something that nearly brought me to tears again:

“I think I am at peace with my new life.”