My Daughter Witnessed a Terror Attack, But She’s Strong

I always knew there was a big chance it would, and wondered if we could possibly prepare for it or how we’d react if it did. But now it happened, and I still don’t know the answers. My eleven-year-old daughter witnessed a terror attack.

By Mrs. Bruria Efune

It happened. I always knew there was a big chance it would, and wondered if we could possibly prepare for it or how we’d react if it did. But now it happened, and I still don’t know the answers. 

My eleven-year-old daughter witnessed a terror attack. Stabbing, gunshots, screaming and all. 

She’s a stubborn kid with a mind of her own. The kind of kid who changed her nickname at two-and-a-half-years-old and strictly enforced the new rule, folding her pudgy arms and ignoring anyone who accidentally called her by the outdated name. That stubbornness never left her and now she’s the kid with a wrist full of friendship bracelets who still keeps an eye out for the lonely girl and stands up to silence any classmate who leaks a mean word. 

She’s also a kid who grew up in Southern Israel. She was not yet two-years-old the first time I picked her up and ran to the bomb shelter; her newborn brother in my other arm. We told her it was a game; when we hear the siren we quickly go to the stairs to say hi to our neighbors. But by 2:00 AM she didn’t want to play that game anymore, and at 2:00 PM she just wanted to go to the park. 

She’s never had a full year of school without at least a few day’s break for rockets, and was in second grade when news spread that her school vice principal’s home was destroyed by a direct hit. 

She was around that age when we sat on the floor of our family bomb shelter, her younger brother’s eyes wide with wonder as sirens blared in the background; her arms folded around a Dr Seuss book; and we discussed terrorism. 

“Every day, every moment, G-d lets us choose,” I told the duo. “We get to decide if we want to do good or bad.”

“The terrorists are bad,” her brother filled in. 

“Yes, they chose to do a bad thing today. But we are so lucky that we live around people who choose to do good things, and we have a good army that protects us.”

“I choose to be good,” she said defiantly. 

By the time October 7th came around she was fluent in bomb-shelter-talk. She’d roll her eyes like a good pre-teen when I’d start with, “it’s okay if you’re feeling scared or nervous, and it’s okay if you want to dance and have fun, or if you don’t know how you feel at all—we can talk about it.”

When a rocket landed in the playground near our house, and we began to smell the smoke, she was more amused and curious than anything else, and wanted to go see. When she met children who had been hostages in Gaza, she decided to buy a “bring them home now” necklace and never take it off. And when the colonel took her along on our visit to see the battles in Gaza, and the shooting got real close, she giggled and said she couldn’t wait to tell her friends. 

So this morning, when she left late for school on the city bus, and then I suddenly heard dozens of police sirens, and she called to say she was safe—I stayed calm enough, and believed her. My husband offered to drive her home, but she insisted on going to school, where she told her friends all about it. 

Six hours later, when she finally got home, she spilled out the story. 

It was seconds after her bus pulled up to the station when she looked out her window and saw a terrorist stab a soldier in his arm. She saw a second soldier pull out his gun, but by then there were too many people running, too much chaos, and thankfully, she only heard the gunshots but didn’t see. 

She said a psalm by heart, walked to where she thought was safe, and then called me before heading off to school. 

She didn’t know how she felt about it, so I asked her about the others on the bus—how did they react? Two women cried, and she thought that was weird. Some people decided to run off the bus. Most people were calm. The other kids on the bus started a game together. 

We spoke about how all the reactions are valid, and she started to roll her eyes because it was the bomb shelter talk all over again. She still wasn’t sure how she felt—not scared but maybe uncomfortable, or perhaps excited, infused by an adrenaline rush from the moment. 

She was proud of herself for continuing on to school, and thought that it was even pretty funny that she carried on with her day. 

She wanted people to know that she’s not scared, and that she will still take the bus to school every day. She knows that G-d is watching over her. She asked that I write that to family, and on social media. 

We took a walk to the mall, chose out gifts for her friend’s Bat Mitzvah, and she started to find the words. 

“I don’t like that we have terrorists here, and I don’t want anyone to get hurt anymore,” she insisted. “I can talk about how I feel and everything—but that’s not my whole life. I’d much rather choose to be doing good and fun things than to be scared all day.”

In Israel, much more popular than trauma therapy is resilience training. Every clinic and school has a resilience counselor or program, and displaced children are sent to resiliency clubs. We feel the pain and acknowledge the battle, but every day we choose who we are. And we choose the path forward, towards creating good, and building a happy future. 

My daughter knows that she might feel differently in the morning, or the middle of the night, and that it would be normal, and we can talk again. That she can also talk to the counselor at her school, who she and all her classmates adore. 

But in the meantime, thank G-d, we’re ok.

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  1. Thanks for posting this article.
    It gives me a chizzuk in the Jewish Chassidish positive “keep your eyes forward” approach, together with validating the normal natural hard feelings that we may experience, but which do not need to take us down.

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