Sandy Hook Taking pictures Survivors Graduate Excessive Schooltheinsiderinsight

It’s been 12 years for the reason that bloodbath at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut left 20 first-graders and 6 educators lifeless earlier than the gunman took his personal life.

Now these surviving first-graders are graduating and getting into maturity, a significant and emotionally difficult milestone, they are saying.

“Numerous it has been like, ‘Oh my God, you are graduating highschool, that is sort of a monumental second in your life,’ nevertheless it all the time sort of has that contact of sorrow once you understand what’s lacking,” 18-year-old Ella Seaver instructed PEOPLE in an interview shortly earlier than receiving her diploma from Newtown Excessive College together with 333 different college students on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 12.

Greater than a decade later, Seaver and different youngsters at college that December morning in 2012 can vividly recall how the chaos unfolded — and the lengthy shadow it solid over their lives.

For extra from the Sandy Hook survivors and new grads, learn subsequent week’s subject of PEOPLE, on newsstands June 21.

Seaver was simply “two lecture rooms down from the 2 lecture rooms that had been attacked,” she says.

Lilly Wasilnak, 17, was one other pupil in Seaver’s class. In some methods, the capturing outlined her whole life: “I feel it is laborious to precisely know what modified, as a result of for me, that is all I’ve ever recognized.”

That additionally pushed her to motion to forestall extra bloodshed. She, Fischer and different new graduates like survivors Matt Holden and Emma Ehrens are members of the anti-gun violence Jr. Newtown Motion Alliance.

“For me, the whole lot I do is for them [the shooting’s victims],” Wasilnak says.

Survivors of the 2012 Sandy Hook capturing and now Newtown Excessive College 2024 graduates together with Ella Seaver (heart).

Anjelica Jardiel 

Wednesday’s commencement ceremony was closed to the press “as a result of delicate nature of the occasion and the various views of every particular person pupil and household,” the district’s superintendent, Christopher Melillo, stated.

However particular time was reserved for the 20 college students killed in 2012: Their names had been learn aloud in tribute.

Graduates additionally wore inexperienced ribbons emblazoned with “Without end in Our Hearts.”

“To graduate and miss 20 youngsters out of your class, there is no strategy to go about it with out remembering them,” Wasilnak says.

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The capturing was seen by many as a turning level within the nation’s ongoing issues with gun violence — a sense shared by among the survivors and graduates.

“I simply do not need to hear ‘our prayers are with you,’ as a result of sadly your prayers do not actually do something for me,” Henry Terifay, 18, instructed PEOPLE. “I simply really need issues to be completely different.”

In 2022, on the tenth anniversary of the capturing, former President Barack Obama mirrored on Sandy Hook, describing it because the “single darkest day of my presidency.” 

Sandy Hook.

Robert Nickelsberg/Getty 

“The information from Sandy Hook Elementary was devastating, a visceral blow, and like so many others, I felt not simply sorrow however anger at a world that might permit such issues to occur,” he stated on the time.

Obama additionally stated the households impacted by the capturing have “borne that weight with energy and beauty,” including that they’ve “drawn goal from tragedy — doing the whole lot of their energy to verify different youngsters and households by no means must expertise what they and their family members did.”

President Joe Biden, who was the vp on the time of the Sandy Hook capturing, in 2022 signed the primary main piece of anti-gun violence laws within the nation in years.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act “enhances sure restrictions and penalties on firearms purchases; promotes evidence-based greatest practices for varsity security; authorizes grants to broaden entry to psychological well being providers; and appropriates emergency funding for psychological well being assets and college security measures,” in response to the White House.

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