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Young man recalls shooting at North Valley Jewish Community Center

December 14, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
What Josh Stepakoff experienced 13 years ago altered his childhood and his outlook on life.

He was 6 years old, attending summer camp at the North Valley Jewish Community Center, when Buford Furrow walked in and began shooting. Five people were injured, including Stepakoff, and the gunman later killed a postal worker.

"I thought he was a construction worker because he was holding the gun down at his hip and it looked almost like a drill," he said. "I was shot twice, once in my left leg and once in my hip."

Stepakoff says he doesn't remember much from that day, or how he reacted in the months that followed. But the memories are vivid for his mother, Loren Lieb.

"I can take myself back there in an instant," said Lieb.

Lieb recalls the anxiety she felt, and how the shooting shattered her child's sense of security.

"If we were home and there was a siren or a helicopter, he wouldn't say anything," she said. "He would just get up and all of a sudden you would see there's Josh, he's closing the windows, he's checking the doors to make sure the doors are locked."

Having been a victim of gun violence, Lieb says her son had fears most children could never imagine, a feeling the children in Connecticut will now likely experience.

"Other kids who are afraid of the boogie man under the bed, it's kind of an abstract thing," Lieb said. "For these kids, it's not abstract anymore, it's real."

Stepakoff says years of therapy have helped him cope. He now wants to lend his voice to push for tougher uniform gun control laws.

"Going out and talking and sharing my story and trying to help others is what's really helped me to come to grips with what happened and to get over it," he said.