Ava Rose Olsen lost her best friend, Jacob Hall, in a 2016 shooting at their elementary school in Townville, South Carolina. Plagued by anxiety that has prevented her from going back to class following the incident, and fearful for other children attending school, Ava wrote to President Trump to ask him how he would protect children from guns, her mother said in an interview with The Washington Post.
“I heard and saw it all happen and I was very scared. My best friend, Jacob, was shot and died. That made me very sad. I loved him and was going to marry him one day. I hate guns. One ruined my life and took my best friend,” Ava wrote back in August last year.
“I don’t want that to ever happen again. How are you going to keeps kids safe?” she added. “Please keep kids safe from guns.”
In a letter Ava’s family received in December, the president thanked the 7-year-old for her letter, and said his prayers were with Ava and her family, as well as the family of her best friend, Jacob.
“Schools are places where children learn and grow with their friends. Their halls should be free of fear. It is my goal as president to make sure that children in America grow up in safe environments, giving them the best opportunity to reach their full potential,” Trump’s letter said.
“I will continue to focus on protecting Americans and improving the safety of our nation,” he added.
But while Ava was thrilled to receive a response from the president, she wanted a firmer idea from Trump about what he planned to do to make the U.S. safer.
“He didn’t say how he could keep kids safe,” Ava said to her mother after reading the letter, The Post reported, so she set about writing a second one.
“I sometimes still think about that day in my head thinking it will happen again. If you have the time, I have some ideas to help keep kids and schools safe. Sometimes people who live through a school shooting have better ideas,” she wrote in her second letter, also sending the president a list of suggestions that included giving children a safe spot to run to in the event of a shooting.
Teenager Jesse Osborne, who was 14 when the shooting took place, is set to stand trial in February. He is accused of killing his father and Jacob Hall, and shooting two other people as he allegedly opened fire in the playground of Townville Elementary School.