Noya Dahan is only 8 years old, but she is a veteran of deadly hate attacks. She’s already survived three horrific incidents — in Israel, in Mira Mesa, California, and most recently at the synagogue in Poway, California.
Noya, who was playing with friends at the Poway synagogue when a gunman entered on Saturday during Passover services, said to CNN, “I don’t even have any words for it. It was terrifying. Scary. We go to pray and then we’re supposed to, like, supposed to feel safe.”
Noya told CNN that the gunman was aiming directly at her and the other children. Though her uncle tried to shield her, she was hit with shrapnel in the leg and face during the attack. Noya also watched in horror as the rabbi’s hands were blown to shreds — and a woman trying to protect the rabbi was killed.
“It’s just dangerous and it hurts when it happens,” Noya told CNN. “You can lose family members. It can tear your family apart… I’m feeling scared and unsafe like someone is always behind us and watching us.”
These shootings in places that used to be considered safe zones — places of worship, schools, shopping malls — are increasing in frequency in the U.S. And children are arguably the most impacted by this shift in the culture of gun violence.
Anti-gun organization March For Our Lives recently released a powerful, sobering video called “Generation Lockdown” in which a young girl — Kayleigh — walks adults through an active shooter drill. The organization was begun by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivors in 2018. The video supports the Senate Resolution 42, the Background Check Expansion Act, which attempts to close loopholes in gun sales so that there will be far less need for active shooter drills like these in our schools.
“If there was an active shooter, you’d all be dead,” Kayleigh says calmly, amid audible gasps of adults shocked to see a child leading the drill. Most public school kids have experienced numerous drills like these.
“You can’t cry. It gives away your position and hiding spot,” continues Kayleigh as the adults continue to stare and shake their heads in quiet horror. Welcome to 2019:
What are the long-term effects and ramifications of these drills at such an early age? That, we don’t know. And we won’t know for years to come. What we do know is that children like Noya, who have been targets of hate crimes, are candidates for PTSD and other anxiety and depression disorders — well before they’ve even become adults.
What can we do? We can keep talking to our kids, absolutely, but it’s difficult when we’re running out of reassuring things to say. This is an abomination in their young lives — and it has to stop. But where, when and how?
We’re not completely helpless. There are actions we can take as parents to try to protect our kids. March For Our Lives suggests these five options:
- Join a March For Our Lives chapter in your area and grab some friends to participate in local chapter events: town halls, meetings, lobby days, etc.
- Attend a town hall with one of your elected officials and make them accountable. Ask them what exactly they are doing to protect constituents from gun violence. You can also track down your congresspersons and ask them the same. No town hall? Try organizing one of your own with help from The Town Hall Project.
- Work within your community to talk about the effects of gun violence. Create an action group with help from MFOL guidelines.
- Money talks: Fundraise for violence-prevention programs in your city or town.
- We can’t say it enough: Vote. Your voice matters, and you’re teaching your kids that their voices matter too.