LOS ANGELES - As fall approaches, many students are back-to-school for a new school year. While the time of year brings excitement and new beginnings, reality sets in and things like active shooter drills have become part of the new normal.
FOX 11's Laura Diaz met with one smart 11-year-old who took her fear of mass shootings to educate others on survival. Here's her experience:
It all started when I attended the Women Against Gun Violence awards brunch last spring. I was invited to the event by Donna Finkelstein, mother of Mindy Finkelstein, who was one of the victims in the hate crime shooting at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Northridge. I had come to know the family through my extensive coverage of that mass shooting two decades ago. We have stayed in touch over the years. Sadly, many of the occasions on which we spoke were because there had been yet another mass shooting.
The event held in Hollywood, is always a moving gathering. It's a passionate group dedicated to ending gun violence. The personal accounts from victims and their families are heart-rending. Near the end of the program, the lights were dimmed and a powerful PSA was played on the big screen to an audience of hundreds. It featured an active shooter training drill at a business in San Diego. The message was compelling. But what was most riveting was the messenger. The expert leading the drill, was not an adult, but an 11-year-old little girl from Los Angeles. Her name: Kayleigh Webb-Sanchez. When Kayleigh emerges on camera a palpable gasp could be heard among the adults. Who is this little girl? And what is her role?
I thought to myself, if she's not an actress, I must talk to her. When the lights came up afterward, there was not a dry eye in the house. I made sure to meet Kayleigh and her grandma that very day.
Kayleigh's back story of how she got involved is heartbreaking. Active shooter drills are now routine in public schools. As a student leader, she often comforted the other kids after the drills, who were frightened as they realized the grimness of what they were training for. Kayleigh said that she was "acting brave " at school, but secretly was terrified and felt like a "fake hero." Her biggest fear was that she would be trapped in the bathroom as a gun-wielding assailant opened fire, and she wouldn't be able to save her baby brother who attends the same school. Her fear was so extreme, she wasn't using the restroom and eventually developed bladder infections. Only then did her family learn how much Kayleigh suffered.
Soon Kayleigh's parents and grandparents became involved. Kayleigh decided she would confront her fear and work to end gun violence. With her parent's blessing and her grandmother Cynthia's support, the two now travel all over the country advocating to end gun violence.
As for the PSA? "Generation Lockdown: March for our Lives" has won numerous awards and has gone viral. I hope you watch it