On April 30, two people were killed and four were injured after a gunman opened fire at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Madhavi Krevat's son Jacob, 21, now a computer-science grad student, was on campus that day, the last day of his senior year. The two students who were killed were Ellis Parlier, 19, and Riley Howell, 21. Jacob's friend Emily Houpt, 23, was among those students who were injured.
Krevat and her daughter Leah, 16, had been active in Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, grassroots movements to end gun violence, since the Parkland, FL, shooting in February 2018. But the UNC Charlotte shooting hit home for them — it affected a family member. Since then, the mother-daughter activist duo have intensified their fight.
Ahead, they tell us what happened on that day and how they're working to end gun violence.
What was your experience on April 30?
Madhavi Krevat: "We got an email from campus saying there was a situation with a shooter. I immediately panicked and texted my son, 'Where are you? Where's your girlfriend? Are you guys okay?' He was in the tutoring center, which is not close by to where the shooting was. Panicking, I wanted to see him, which didn't happen for several hours. I was listening to the news, I kept texting him, he was giving me updates. We were getting updates from the school, too.
"Finally, we got an email that said a suspect was in custody, but the campus was still on lockdown. I waited with thundering heart, wondering who had gotten injured and who was dead. I kept texting my son, telling him what the emails I kept getting said. He already knew everything; he was getting emails and texts from school, too. He was stuck in the tutoring center, in charge of managing people’s stress. His texts were light-hearted and nonchalant. That’s my son — he doesn’t show his emotion."
Leah Krevat: "I was downstairs in my kitchen when I found out, my mom told me. All I felt was anger and sadness. I couldn't take it. I was really scared for my brother. I never thought this was going to happen on his college campus. I was crying so hard for the rest of the day, I was shaking so hard, and all I could talk about was the shooting. I just kept asking if he's okay."
MK: "One of the emails later in the evening said that the lockdown was still in place, and that police were sweeping the buildings on campus. The school alerted students to put their hands up and identify themselves when the police arrived. I texted my son and told him to get his ID out ahead of time, so he wasn’t reaching into his pocket in full view of a policeman. My son is half-Jewish and half-Indian. This was a tense situation, and I knew the police would be jumpy. It was better to keep his ID out before they arrived. It’s something I think about because I’m an immigrant, and I’m definitely not white.
We shop together and we go out, and now we're activists together and it's only brought us closer. She supports me so much, we talk. It's really nice, I would say that we're quite a force, this mother-and-daughter team.
"At some point, I just lost it and started to cry. I couldn’t believe this was happening. It was only a week-and-a-half until graduation. The whole world had gone crazy. My son finally texted around 9 p.m. that he was on his way home, and he arrived back at his apartment a little after 9 p.m. We live in Apex, NC, which is southwest of Raleigh and about two-and-a-half hours from his campus. The world settled, and I felt a little better. I still just wanted to hug him and hold him. The boy is taller than me, he’s 21 years old, and he’s so much smarter than I am. But he’s still my baby. He’ll always be my baby. It took me three years of fertility treatments to have that boy, and I wasn’t going to lose him...ever.
"We learned along the way that six people had been shot — two were dead, and four were in the hospital. These boys were someone’s son, someone’s brother, but they were dead. They would never walk across a stage to get their diplomas. Their life had ended because our country has a love affair with guns, and our legislators are in the pocket of the NRA."
How did you and Jacob talk about the shooting? How is his friend Emily?
MK: "The day after the shooting, I was at lunch with some other members of Moms Demand Action and he texted and said Emily had been shot. But he also said she was okay, she's going to be out of the hospital that day or the next. Emily didn't want to be interviewed by anyone or make a fuss about this, she just wanted to take her exams and graduate. She walked across the stage and got her diploma just a few days after the shooting.
"Jacob is one of those people who doesn't like to talk about things like this. Yes, he was definitely shaken up when he was telling me about Emily. But so far, we haven't done a lot of talking. I didn't push. I don't want to traumatize him. Right now, we're keeping it low-key."
How was the graduation?
MK: "May 11 was a day of emotional ups and downs. At the morning graduation, my son received his Bachelor of Science degree in computer science. He and his fellow graduates wore 'I walk with Reed' buttons to honor Ellis 'Reed' Parlier. I was so touched by their gesture of solidarity for their fallen classmate. They also wore white ribbons, and my son wore a green ribbon that Leah and I made for the graduation. My whole family wore the green ribbons in honor of the victims. I also wore my Moms Demand Action button."
How did you two get involved in the movement against gun violence?
LK: "I got involved because of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, FL. It was the first time I'd ever been affected by something on the news. I'm in high school, and these were high school students who had died. I was so mad and so depressed by it, and it was the first time I ever felt emotion toward the news. I was like, I can't sit idly by."
MK: "After the Parkland shooting, we went to a town hall in Raleigh, it was a packed church. That was it, after that we were completely involved. And then, as the year progressed, Leah had a walkout at her school, we volunteered at events. We met Emma González, David Hogg, and other March for Our Lives kids. We tabled at rallies. Moms Demand Action has over 20 chapters across the state; we've grown a lot. Every day, we add new people."
What are some issues you're working on right now?
MK: "We have a bill coming up in North Carolina — some of our legislators want to arm teachers. We are completely against that. We're writing letters and calling our representatives to let them know how we feel. We'll be there in the gallery when they vote on it.
"Arming teachers is just really risky. We don't need more guns in schools, we need less. There are so many things that could go wrong. We spoke to Leah's third-grade teacher, and she used to be in the military. She said it's a terrible idea and she wouldn't feel safe. She was like, 'No, no, I'm there to teach my children — I would not feel safe having a gun in my classroom.'"
LK: "We've had active-shooter drills at school, and after Parkland there's extra security. The school has received several threats this year. I don't feel safe in my school as it is, and I would feel even less safe if my teachers were armed. I trust my teachers. But honestly, if I see them with a gun it would freak me out. Arming them is so, so, risky because some of these teachers, they yell at kids when they're misbehaving. Them having a gun would be horrifying."
Has being a mother-daughter team working to fight gun violence brought you closer together?
MK: "We've always been close. She's my only girl — I also have two boys — and the youngest. We shop together and we go out, and now we're activists together and it's only brought us closer. She supports me so much, we talk. It's really nice, I would say that we're quite a force, this mother-and-daughter team. We even made little business cards for ourselves, she's on one side and I'm on the other. We want to stop gun violence in this country, and we're going to do it together.
"We're trying to put all of this behind us. But it has also spurred us to action more. We're just even more determined to stop this from happening on any other campus and any other public place, or in the home. Having it come so close to home has made us fight even harder."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.