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Faith for a Bullet Free Sky

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image Sandy Duran (second from right) and Diego Duran (center) with a group of volunteers at the Bullet Free Sky booth at the Ruskin Sunday Market on Nov. 25. Photo Mitch Traphagen

Somewhere in South Hillsborough this New Year's Eve, the sky will now be bullet free.

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN

New Year's Eve is fast approaching and Sandy Duran feels a sense of urgency. That evening of joy and revelry will mark the one-year anniversary of when her 12-year-old son, Diego, was critically wounded by a bullet fired into the sky, an act known ironically as “celebratory gunfire”. In the past year, Diego has made a remarkable recovery, although the road of recovery still stretches before him, and the young man and his mother and family have kicked off a campaign named Bullet Free Sky, to raise awareness about the dangers of celebratory gunfire.

On Sunday, at the Ruskin Sunday Market on Shell Point Road, Sandy and Diego Duran had a booth to provide information and to sell Bullet Free Sky merchandise that help to raise the money needed to continue their awareness campaign. One man stopped by, looked at the information and told Sandy it had always been a tradition in his family to fire weapons into the air in celebration of certain events. By the time the man left the booth, that tradition had ended, with a promise that he would let his entire family know about the very real danger involved with it. A bullet fired into the air can travel for miles before landing…somewhere. Perhaps harmlessly on the ground, perhaps through the roof of a house or, most horrifyingly, through the skull of a child.

The Durans efforts have recently been joined by Richard Smeraldo. On the 4th of July, the Tampa Bay man was enjoying a fireworks show when he was hit by celebratory gunfire. The bullet traveled through the bill of his baseball cap, through his nostril, hitting his lip, through his chin and towards his chest when it was stopped by a medallion he had purchased just the week before. The medallion was engraved with his mother’s favorite verse: “If ye have faith, as a grain of mustard seed nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (Matthew 17:20)

Replicas of that medallion, with the same engraving and the words, “Bullet Free Sky” are now being sold to raise funds for the non-profit organizaiton.

Although injuries continue due to celebratory gunfire, nothing is impossible to Sandy and Diego Duran. They have faith in their mission and they are having an impact. Bullet Free Sky has gained worldwide attention but on Sunday they saw proof of their impact. One man walked away with new knowledge. Somewhere in South Hillsborough this New Year's Eve, the sky will now be bullet free.

For information about Bullet Free Sky, visit www.bulletfreesky.com.

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