Sandy Hook massacre survivors graduate high school without 20 of their classmates

US

Sandy Hook shooting survivors have graduated high school without 20 of their classmates.

Members of Newtown High School’s class of 2024 will leave with the same mix of bittersweet feelings and excitement as many of their peers do when graduating high school in the US.

However, 60 of the 300-plus cohort of kids in Newtown, Connecticut, who graduated on Wednesday will also carry the burden from surviving one of the deadliest school shootings in US history.

They walked across the stage, knowing 20 of their classmates would not be able to join them.

On 14 December 2012, Adam Lanza shot his mum, took her guns and drove to the nearby school with them.

There he murdered 20 children, all in the first grade – aged six or seven, and six adults, including four teachers and the principal.

As police arrived at the school, Lanza then killed himself.

Prominent conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was ordered to pay almost a billion dollars to victims of the shooting and their families after he claimed the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax that had been staged by gun control activists using actors.

Local residents join survivors of the shooting for a rally against gun violence this month. Pic: AP
Image:
Local residents join survivors of the shooting for a rally against gun violence this month. Pic: AP

Alex Jones was ordered to pay almost a billion dollars to the families of victims. Pic: AP
Image:
Alex Jones was ordered to pay almost a billion dollars to the families of victims. Pic: AP

More than a decade on from the massacre, the survivors of the attack celebrated their graduation, with victims honoured during the ceremony with a moment of silence.

The school’s principal Kimberly Longobucco read out the names of the young kids who were killed as the class of 2024 looked on, wearing green-and-white ribbons in remembrance of the victims.

She said: “We remember your 20 classmates who were tragically lost on December 14, 2012, who will not walk across the stage tonight.

“We remember them for their bravery, their kindness and their spirit.

“Let us strive to honour them today and every day.”

Five of the survivors discussed their feelings about graduating before they walked across the stage.

They had all been active in Junior Newtown Action Alliance and its anti-gun violence efforts – with the national conversation around gun control reignited following the attack.

Emma Ehrens was one of 11 children from Classroom 10 to survive the attack.

She and other students were able to flee when the gunman paused to reload and another student, Jesse Lewis, yelled for everyone to run.

Jesse was one of five kids killed in the room, along with two teachers.

Ms Ehrens said: “I am definitely going be feeling a lot of mixed emotions. I’m super excited to be, like, done with high school and moving on to the next chapter of my life.

“But I’m also so… mournful, I guess, to have to be walking across that stage alone … I like to think that they’ll be there with us and walking across that stage with us.”

But she added she was looking forward to the opportunities that came with moving on, and no longer being “the Sandy Hook kid”.

Matt Holden, a survivor of the Sandy Hook school shooting. Pic: AP
Image:
Matt Holden, a survivor of the Sandy Hook school shooting. Pic: AP

Ella Seaver, a survivor of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Pic: AP
Image:
Ella Seaver, a survivor of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Pic: AP

Grace Fisher was in a classroom down the hall from the killings and said that despite efforts to have a normal childhood following the massacre, “it wasn’t totally normal”.

She added they were missing “such a big chunk of our class” for their graduation.

Many of the survivors of the shooting have said they continue to live with the trauma of the day.


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Matt Holden, 17, said: “In Sandy Hook, what happened is always kind of looming over us.”

A number of the survivors said that their experience with the attack has informed their plans going forward, and into college.

Ella Seaver said she is going to study psychology and become a therapist as a way of giving back.

Ms Seaver said: “It’s a way to feel like you’re doing something. Because we are. We’re fighting for change and we’re really not going to stop until we get it.”

Others, like Ms Ehrens and Mr Holden, want to work in politics to effect policy and laws.

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