Editor’s Note: Ruth Ebenstein is a freelance writer, public speaker and activist whose writing on parenting, education and activism has appeared in the Atlantic, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Review of Books, WomansDay.com, USA Today, and others. Find her on Facebook and on Twitter @ruthebenstein. Anya Moon is a fourth-grader living in Virginia. She loves to play soccer, read and ride her bike. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.
“I don’t want this letter to be another one written to Santa that never reaches the addressee.”
So said my friend, Danuta Moon, with determination in her voice.
Anya, her spirited 10-year-old daughter, had just typed up a letter to President Trump about gun violence. The tween knew the price of it all too well. Months before, gun violence had hit her street in Reston, Virginia. Right around Christmastime, her neighbors, Buckley Kuhn Fricker and Scott Fricker, were shot to death in their home, allegedly by their daughter’s boyfriend.
But it was the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, that propelled Anya to finally put pen to paper and petition President Trump for change. And it was the shooting in Santa Fe High School in Texas that motivated the fourth-grader to type up that letter and, with her mother’s help, send a copy to her classroom teacher, the principal of her elementary school, to Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and to President Trump at the White House.
Anya lingered on the printed appeal. What could she do to make sure her letter would be read by President Trump, perhaps the only one who could really make a difference that was so needed right now?
She turned to me, her writer friend, with a request.
“Can you please help me share this letter with our President?”
This missive speaks for itself.
Dear Mr. President Donald Trump,
I am Anya Moon. I am 10 years old and I live in Virginia. I am writing to you because of gun violence. I know you probably are getting a lot of mail like this, but you have to hear me out.
On my mother’s birthday, my family went to the Christmas Market. On the way, we passed my neighbors’ house, two doors down. There was “caution” tape going around the house and lots of reporters. I was wondering what was happening. So I asked my parents and they said they didn’t know, even though they did. Later at the Christmas Market my mother got a phone call from our neighbors clarifying what happened.
My mother was so sad that she didn’t want her children (me and my sister) to see her cry so she walked off into the crowd ahead of us. My sister and I were worried so we hugged our father. When our mother came back, she hugged our father as well. Then we went straight home because we were too depressed to do anything.
The TERRIBLE news that my mother got was about the shooting of our neighbors. The boy whose parents died was in my class and I sat right next to him. I was so devastated when my parents told me and my sister the news. Then the boy had to move away to relatives in another state.
So I, Anya Moon, want to make a change like other kids have been doing. I think that the Government can do more and that kids can help the Government. And I want to be one of those kids! So please, I do not want to hear any more news that there was a shooting somewhere and there was a kid involved with the shooting. I can’t make a super big difference because I am a kid, which is why I am writing to you: because you can make that difference that millions of Americans want.
Anya’s mother sent her letter to the White House on May 20. She got an automated email confirmation that it has been received but no other reply has yet been forthcoming.
Anya had been roused to activism by the speeches of kids and teens at the March For Our Lives in Washington, which she watched live with her father and sister. Their messages and determination lingered in her head. “Writing a letter to President Trump was the biggest way possible that I could help,” Anya told me. “After all, I am only 10!”
To Anya’s loved ones, this call for action came as a surprise. The fourth-grader had avoided openly processing the tragedy of the Frickers with her kinfolk and peers. She seemed to have bottled up the trauma, escaping to her own interior. But there were reminders. Every day, she pedaled past the Frickers’ empty two-story home on her green-and-white 10-speed bike on the way to and from school. Her thoughts drifted to her former classmate, with a pang of sadness. “I miss him,” she acknowledged wistfully.
Like many of us, I, too, am wrought with emotion after every incident of gun violence, after each school shooting. I make it a point to study the photos of the faces of the victims and read their biographies, trying to get to know individuals whose lives were stolen. To turn statistics into people, even if just for a short while: like Christopher Jake Stone, the dapper 17-year-old decked out in a tux for junior prom; Christian Riley Garcia, the 15-year-old who had written a verse from Psalms on the door frame of what would have been his new bedroom.
Amid all this, there are encouraging signs that Americans can come together around tighter gun control. According to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that more than 80% of gun owners and non-owners support universal background checks. In reviewing the responses to 24 policies examined in the study, the majority of respondents, gun owners and non-owners alike got behind restricting or regulating gun ownership.
That consensus gives me hope. So does the courage and dedication of children like Anya.
In early June, Anya’s elementary school will kick off Spirit Week with student-led activities. One day marks Celebrity Day. Students are invited to dress up as their favorite personalities, those who they deem unspeakably cool.
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Guess who Anya chose?
Emma Gonzales, age 18, activist and advocate for gun control.