“I had to take a picture with my best friend’s family. I couldn’t take one with my best friend because he was killed in a shooting at our school.”
One school shooting survivor shared a heartbreaking photo at her high school graduation, highlighting the life-long impact of gun violence.
“I had to take a picture with my best friend’s family at my high school graduation,” Mia Tretta, 18, tweeted on June 7, along with an old photo of the grad smiling arm-in-arm with her best friend, Dominic Blackwell. Tretta also shared a recent picture of her posing alongside Blackwell’s family.
“I couldn’t take one with my best friend because he was killed in a shooting at our school,” she wrote. “I love his family but I love it more with Dominic in it. We can do better.”
Dominic Blackwell was just 14 when he was shot and killed inside Saugus High School in 2019 by a 16-year-old armed with a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol. Gracie Muehlberger, 15, was also killed.
Tretta was standing next to Blackwell when he was shot. She was wounded in the shooting, along with two other students, and underwent multiple surgeries, including one to remove the bullet from her stomach.
Tretta says it still doesn’t feel real that her best friend is missing out on important milestones like high school graduation.
“Of course I knew my best friend couldn’t be there, but it didn’t hit me until my best friend’s family asked me to decorate his cap and chair,” Tretta tells TODAY.com.
“I really didn’t think it would be as difficult as it was,” she adds.
Tretta says Dominic was “not just another mass shooting statistic.” She describes him as “always smiling, caring” and a “goofball” — and she says he would have loved the graduation ceremony, especially when students kept bringing out oversized inflatable beachballs.
“The security guard who was in charge of taking away things like that would grab it and tear it up,” Tretta says. “Then, five seconds later, another one showed up … the guard would get so mad. I think Dominic would find that hilarious.”
Tretta will be attending Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island in the fall and plans to major in public policy.
“A lot of people see a mass shooting and say: ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so awful, that’s so sad,’ and then they go back to their normal life,” she says. “Survivors can’t really turn away like that.”