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North Valley JCC Shooting Still Traumatizing

On August 10, 1999 the North Valley Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Granada Hills was the site of a mass shooting that left one dead and five injured — some as young as five years old.
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June 9, 2022
Melanie Brooks at the 2018 March for Our Lives

There was a day 23 years ago when young Jewish children in Los Angeles were the target of a mass shooting. On August 10, 1999 the North Valley Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Granada Hills was the site of a mass shooting that left one dead and five injured — some as young as five years old. The shooter, a white supremacist armed with an Uzi submachine gun, said he did it as a “wakeup call to America to kill Jews.”

The JCC shooting in 1999 happened barely four months after the Columbine High School massacre in which 12 students and one teacher died. 

In the wake of the horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary School at Uvalde, Texas that left 19 schoolchildren and two teachers dead, the mention of any school shooting brings back traumatic memories for survivors. The JCC shooting in 1999 happened barely four months after the Columbine High School massacre in which 12 students and one teacher died. 

The increasing prevalence of these mass shootings is making the search for solutions more urgent. “If we can show people how close this violence is in proximity to them, even if they’ve never experienced it, it’s much closer than people realize,” said actress Melanie Brooks, who was an eight-year-old resident of the Valley at the time of the Granada Hills shooting. 

Although she was not at the JCC that morning, Brooks is still shaken by the JCC shooting. Her mother was a JCC nursery school teacher. And throughout her childhood, Brooks not only spent much of her leisure time at JCCs, but she also volunteered alongside her mother. She remembers being evacuated from a JCC at age four due to a threat. One day at age ten, Brooks answered the work phone for her mother at the JCC, innocently thinking it was just another work call. It turned out to be a bomb threat.

“They repeated [the threat], and at just ten years old, I had to go to the administrator and just hope that they believed me that this had just happened,” Brooks told the Journal, admitting that she has never shared this story publicly.

“And of course they did [believe me] because it was not new. We all had to evacuate, the police came and they had to make sure that the threat was not real. Another time, they had said that there was a sniper. It’s just this collective trauma, and just to see it become not just a white supremacy issue, which it was rooted in directly in our community, but it’s, it’s grander than that. It’s just, it’s really just devastating.”

There is an entire generation of young adults like Brooks, now 31, who grew up with the threat and fear of gun violence in schools. 

There is an entire generation of young adults like the now 31-year-old Brooks, who grew up with the threat and fear of gun violence in schools. And that is why she is one of millions of people who have taken to the streets to demand action from lawmakers to address gun violence in the U.S. 

In 2018, she and her family joined the March for Our Lives protest in Los Angeles in support of gun control legislation. That demonstration came on the heels of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting in Florida that left 17 dead. 

Brooks and her family members plan to be at the next march in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 11th. Another advocacy group, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, is taking action directly with Members of Congress. “If not now, when?” Tweeted former Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords. She formed the organization after surviving a gunshot to the head during a constituent event in Tuscon, Arizona. 

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, founded by the late James Brady after being shot during the attempted assassination of President Reagan, is taking action too. The Brady Plan has a twelve-part platform for Congress to address gun control. 

Everytown For Gun Safety, formed in the year following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, is another group that is taking action. Last week, they organized over 200 school walkouts across the country to demand action by lawmakers to pass “common sense gun safety measures.” 

The shooting in Uvalde will put increased pressure on politicians to do more than just wait for the issue to fade in the news cycle. After the Granada Hills JCC shooting, Brooks remembers Vice President Al Gore visiting with one of the students at her school and being optimistic that something would be done about gun violence. 

“It felt like, ‘okay, we’re not alone in this,’” Brooks said after learning that the Vice President acknowledged the terrifying shooting. “But in reality, we were still alone in this, despite all the good intentions.”

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