Sandy Hook Shooting Survivors to Graduate from Newtown High School

About 60 of the 330 students graduating from Newtown High School today survived the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Published: June 12, 2024

NEWTOWN, Conn. — Dozens of students who survived the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School will graduate high school today.

About 60 of the 330 students graduating from Newtown High School survived the Dec. 14, 2012 shooting that claimed the lives of 20 of their fellow first-graders and six educators. The victims will be honored during the ceremony but details have been kept private, The Associated Press reports.

Five of the graduating survivors sat down with AP to share their feelings about graduation and those who won’t be there.

“I think we’re all super excited for the day,” said 17-year-old Lilly Wasilnak, who was in a classroom down the hall from where her classmates were killed. “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.”

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Sandy Hook Survivor: Shooting Forced Us to Grow Up

Grace Fischer, 18, was in a classroom down the hall during the shooting.

“The shooting was kind of our most core memory growing up, and I think that took away a lot of the joy that we could have experienced when we were six years old. I can’t really remember many times before the shooting, so in that sense, it really did take over those really innocent times and it really forced us to grow up so fast when we didn’t need to,” she said. “As much as we’ve tried to have that normal childhood and normal high school experience, it wasn’t totally normal.”

Many of the survivors told AP they continue to live with trauma from the shooting. Loud noises still startle many and some always keep an eye on exits. Many have also spent years in therapy for post-traumatic stress, depression, and anxiety.

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

Sandy Hook Survivor Recalls Fleeing from Gunman

Emma Ehrens, 17, was one of 11 children in Classroom 10 who survived the attack. She and 10 other classmates were able to flee when the gunman stopped to reload his weapon. Five of her remaining classmates and both teachers were killed.

“I am definitely going be feeling a lot of mixed emotions,” Ehrens told AP. “I’m super excited to be 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.”

Ehrens said she feels some anxiety over leaving Newtown but that it’s a necessary step to start the next chapter of her life.

“It definitely feels for me that we’re kind of stuck in the same system that we’ve been stuck in for past 12 years,” she continued. “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.”

Watch AP’s full interview here.

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