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Talking to parents and children about the shooting in Buffalo


The Saturday shooting attack on a Buffalo grocery store left the community torn and searching for answers. For many parents, broaching the subject with their children made the moment even harder. NPR's Alana Wise spoke to these families and brings us this story.

ALANA WISE, BYLINE: For Black parents, like Reverend Denise Walden-Glenn, news of the shooting allegedly perpetrated by an 18-year-old with racist ideals struck especially close to home. Her 12 children, biological and chosen, range in age from 13 to 26.

DENISE WALDEN-GLENN: One of my sons is 18 years old, and his very first question to me was like, Mom, how does someone my age do something so hateful? How do you explain that to your child?

WISE: Since Saturday, Glenn and her office at VOICE, a social justice organization in Buffalo, have been working overtime. Her middle school-aged children didn't go to school on Monday.

WALDEN-GLENN: We went through such a violent violation, and we are so shaken, and I don't understand how it feels as though it's expected to go on with life as normal.

WISE: Tyrell Ford also works at VOICE. After the shooting, he and his wife sat their two elementary-aged sons down to explain to them what happened.

TYRELL FORD: My wife took the opportunity to talk to them, to let them know that there's people out here that will target you based on the color of your skin.

WISE: Ford's wife works as a first grade teacher. She had to go back to work on Monday.

FORD: They had a circle to bring the teachers together to see how everybody's feeling. And the Black group just said they just broke down crying.

WISE: He said that Buffalo should give parents and students time away from work and school to grieve.

FORD: I don't think they're going to fully understand until they get a little bit older and start to see the world for what it truly is. And that's the risk we run with, like, exposing them to the dark side of the world so early on.

WISE: White parents have also had to have difficult conversations with their children. Nineteen-year-old Julia Wisinski attended a vigil with her mother and sister.

JULIA WISINSKI: I felt like he was really young. And it's just awful that so many young people can be influenced like this to do bad things.

JADEN DURHAM: We was all shooken (ph) up that it happened.

WISE: Jaden Durham is an 11-year-old student who attended one of the vigils with his mother and four siblings. He's Black. After the Saturday mass shooting, he said his school practiced active shooter drills to teach them what to do if they ever find themselves in a similar situation.

JADEN: My teachers was saying, like, when something happens like that, be calm and just walk down the stairs and go outside.

WISE: Also at the vigil was Candice Erni and her 5-year-old daughter, Alina. They worked to pass out supplies, like food and diapers, alongside their church group.

CANDICE ERNI: We actually just spoke to her before we came. Didn't fully get into details, but just let her know that an individual hurt a lot of people within a grocery store. And we just kept it at that.

WISE: Alina understood some of what happened but prodded her parents with questions like whether the man did it because he had a bad day.

ERNI: We let her know that someone who had views that were against the word of God decided to act out of fear and violence rather than peace.

WISE: But one question still weighed on 5-year-old Alina.

ALINA: How did it happen?

WISE: A question her parents were so careful to shield her from. Alana Wise, NPR News, Buffalo, N.Y. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.

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