Acts of violence causing anxiety in ‘safe spaces’


Sophomore Humanities teacher Ana-Claudia Magaña reads “Things Fall Apart” to her students on Nov. 30. Magaña said recent shootings in places of worship have made it harder for her to feel safe when she attends church, but she tries not to focus on the negative.

Taylor Moe, Staff Reporter

Church. School. Your bedroom. Most people have a special place they retreat to in times of stress, sorrow or to simply feel safe. But recently, those safe spaces are being invaded by acts of violence. 

Mass shootings around the country are dominating the headlines, the most recent taking place at a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Nov. 7 and an Alabama mall on Black Friday.

But there are times when people don’t feel comfortable in the places that were meant to be safe havens, causing fear and anxiety to take over. 

With more and more shootings happening in places of worship – one at a synagogue in Pittsburgh left 11 people dead – congregants are no longer focusing on going to a safe place. The focus has shifted to making these safe places safe from others. 


“I do worry sometimes when I go to my place of worship, given how often [shootings have] happened in the last several years,” said Ana-Claudia Magaña, a 10th grade Humanities teacher. 

Magaña worships at Our Lady of Guadalupe in West Seattle. 

“For me, that’s a place to re-center myself with my religion and to be fully present,” she said. “And those events … they oftentimes make it harder to do that.” 

Even though it is hard, Magaña still finds ways to not dwell on the fear. She believes obsessing about the shootings and other tragedies makes it worse. 

“Even though I acknowledge [a shooting] is a possibility, I feel like I would go crazy if I were to dwell on it,” said Magaña. 

Even people who are non-religious can be affected by shootings. David Dreeben teaches ninth grade Humanities. Two of his cousins, who are Jewish, live only several blocks from the temple where the synagogue shooting occurred. On the morning of the shooting, Dreeben’s fiancée told him about the tragedy and he immediately called to check on his relatives. 

“I had heard of that community and knew I had family members who were there,” Dreeben said. “Luckily, they don’t go to that temple; they were okay.” 

Both Dreeben and Magaña talked about these occurrences in their classrooms, giving students a place to process their emotions.

“I know there were a lot of sad and shocked faces in the room,” Magaña said. “There was also a hint of fear.”

Dreeben had a class discussion about the Pittsburgh shooting, which helped him reason why studying religion is important to his class. They used the conversation to transition into learning more about Judaism for a class project they were working on.

Even though the most recent shootings occurred in public places, there is still a fear for safety within homes. There have been several instances of people being shot by stray bullets while in the privacy of their homes.

Sophomore Zhong Wang feels most relaxed when she is in her quiet room, but feels pain when people get hurt or injured. Still, she prefers to stick close to home.

“I only find my house, my friend’s house, my cousin’s house, and my community center safe because there are people I know there that can protect me.”