Sandy Hook survivors to graduate with ‘mixed emotions’ years after 20 peers killed: ‘We can’t forget…’ - Hindustan Times
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Sandy Hook survivors to graduate with ‘mixed emotions’ years after 20 peers killed: ‘We can’t forget…’

BySumanti Sen
Jun 12, 2024 01:59 PM IST

The survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting are prepared to graduate with mixed feelings years after 20 of their peers were killed by Adam Lanza.

The survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting are prepared to graduate, but what should have been a joyous moment of celebration is being looked at by them with mixed feelings, knowing that 20 of their murdered classmates will never graduate. A mass shooting carried out by 20-year-old Adam Lanza in the Connecticut school in December 2012 resulted in the deaths of 20 minor students and six adult staff members.

Survivors of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting hold signs during a rally against gun violence on Friday, June 7, 2024 in Newtown, Conn. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)(AP)
Survivors of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting hold signs during a rally against gun violence on Friday, June 7, 2024 in Newtown, Conn. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)(AP)

About 60 of the 330 graduating seniors were in the school when Lanza opened fire, before dying by suicide by shooting himself in the head. Before driving to the school the same day, Lanza shot his mother dead at their Newtown home.

It has been revealed that the slain students will be honoured during the ceremony, but it is unclear how, according to New York Post. “I am definitely going to be feeling a lot of mixed emotions,” said Emma Ehrens, 17. She was one of the 11 children from Classroom 10 who survived the attack.

“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,” she added.

‘We all have very mixed emotions’

Lilly Wasilnak, 17, another survivor, said that everyone is “super excited” for graduation. However, she added, “But I think we can’t forget … that there is a whole chunk of our class missing.”

“And so going into graduation, we all have very mixed emotions — trying to be excited for ourselves and this accomplishment that we’ve worked so hard for, but also those who aren’t able to share it with us, who should have been able to,” she said.

A student named Grace Fischer claimed that the graduating students were never able to have a “normal” school experience. “As much as we’ve tried to have that normal, like, childhood and normal high school experience, it wasn’t totally normal,” the 18-year-old said.

“But even though we are missing … such a big chunk of our class, like Lilly said, we are still graduating. … We want to be those regular teenagers who walk across the stage that day and feel that, like, celebratory feeling in ourselves, knowing that we’ve come this far,” he added.

The graduating students hope they will be able to start afresh as they move ahead. “In Sandy Hook, what happened is always kind of looming over us,” said Matt Holden, 17, one of the survivors.

“I think leaving and being able to make new memories and meet new people, even if we’ll be more isolated away from people who have stories like us, we’ll be more free to kind of write our own story. … And kind of, you know, not let this one event that happened because we were very young define our lifetimes,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ehrens added, “For me, I feel like it’s definitely going to get better and be able to break free of that system and just be able to become my own person rather than, again, the Sandy Hook kid.”

To prevent other mass shootings, the students were involved in the Junior Newtown Action Alliance and in anti-gun violence efforts. 18-year-old Ella Seaver said she wants to study psychology in college to be able to help others. “Putting my voice out there and working with all of these amazing people to try and create change really puts a meaning to the trauma that we all were forced to experience,” 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,” Seaver added.

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