On September 21, 2014, Pati Poblete’s beloved son Robby was killed by gun violence in broad daylight at a busy intersection in Vallejo, CA. He was 23 years old.  From that moment on, Poblete has made it her mission to live out her son’s dreams while focusing on preventing future gun-related incidents.

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In her new memoir, A Better Place, Poblete recounts her incredible story of loss and redemption as she weaves her path through the tragedy. Poblete takes readers on her heartbreaking journey from the scene of the crime, to a worldwide quest to understand Robby’s unfulfilled plans – all while trying to make sense of what has happened. Through her writing, she reveals how his death has changed her and how she used the horrifying experience to make sure her son’s legacy endures. Though the story is tragic, it provides hope and inspiration to people showing that they too can heal and find peace after an insurmountable tragedy

“How My Son’s Murder from Gun Violence Gave Me New Purpose…”

By Pati Navalta Poblete,

author of “A Better Place: A Memoir of Peace in the Face of Tragedy”

The day after the Las Vegas shooting left 59 dead on Valentine’s Day, I received messages from friends and family saying, “I can’t imagine what you’re feeling right now.”

As I watched coverage of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in horror just four months later, I received similar messages: “Are you ok?” “This is crazy!” “When will this end?”

And when I got the news alert on my cell phone on Friday about the school shooting in Santa Fe High School in Texas, I decided to turn my phone off. It was too much to bear, and all the messages, all the questions, all the sentiments had become a broken record.

Here we are. Again.

A reporter once asked me if I had grown numb to all the news about mass shootings. “How do you feel?” he asked. “Have you become desensitized?” After all, it had almost been four years since my son, Robby, was shot and killed in broad daylight.

As a mother of a gun violence victim, the reality is quite the opposite. I am neither numb nor desensitized. I feel every ounce of pain and grief and trauma that I felt the day I learned my son was killed, every time I hear about a shooting death. I think of all the people whose lives were cut short in a matter of seconds while doing everyday things – walking on a street, attending a concert – going to school. Those same feelings of hopelessness, frustration and helplessness that I suffered for nearly two years after my son was killed wash over me, threatening to pull me back under water – and I wonder if there is ever going to be a change. If 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 being gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School didn’t make a difference, what will?

Have I become desensitized? I remember a time when I wish the answer was yes. But now I understand that that is why we are in this position. We have lawmakers, voters, non-voters, media outlets, and large portions of our society in general that have grown desensitized. News on gun violence is reported on and followed based on numbers and notoriety –namely, mass shootings and high-profile victims. But what about the everyday shootings? What about the fact that every single day there are 96 Americans killed with guns, according to Everytown.org? Seven children and teens are killed with guns in this country on an average day. And there are nearly 13,000 gun homicides in the United States in a year.

Collectively, there is a mass shooting every single day.

I hope to always feel the brutal pain every time I hear of a shooting. I hope to always think of the parents like me, left behind with their grief and anguish. I hope to never become desensitized so that I am reminded that we all bear a responsibility to make a change. To save our children and each other from a present and future of fear and violence.

This is what led me to writing “A Better Place: A Memoir of Peace in the Face of Tragedy”. My hope was that in pulling the curtain back on the trauma, the PTSD, the grief and depression, others would understand they were not alone. And this is what led to the formation of The Robby Poblete Foundation, which I created to reduce gun violence through gun buybacks, and transform the weapons into instruments of hope and opportunity through art and vocational programs.

In the wake of yet another school shooting, it is easy to grow frustrated and simply give up. I know. I’ve been there. I lost my only son to gun violence. So many people tried to comfort me after his death by saying he was in a “better place”.

But I choose to fight to create a better place here — as much as I can, for as long as I can.

Our children deserve no less.



Pati Navalta Poblete is a longtime Bay Area journalist, serving as the Community Editor for the Vallejo Times-Herald, News Editor at the Alameda News Group, and Editorial Writer and Columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle, where she was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize for her editorial series on the need for foster care reform in California. She later worked as the Asia Regional Director for an international organization that works with national governments and intergovernmental agencies on shaping sustainability policies. She is the author of “The Oracles: My Filipino Grandparents of America” (2006, Heyday Books), and the author of the upcoming book, “A Better Place” (Nothing But the Truth Publishing), to be released in May 2018. You can watch her story HERE


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The Robby Poblete Foundation is an official not-for-profit program gun buyback program whose efforts take unwanted and potentially dangerous guns out of circulation and provide vocational programs to individuals and communities affected by gun violence.

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