In mid-November, a memorial to the 26 victims was unveiled near the new elementary school built to replace the one that was demolished after the shooting.
NEWTOWN, Connecticut — They would have turned 16 or 17 this year. Senior high school juniors.
The kids who were killed on December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School should have spent this year thinking about college, getting their SATs, and getting their driver’s licenses. Maybe for her first prom.
Instead, the families of the 20 students and six educators killed in the mass shooting will celebrate a decade without them on Wednesday.
December is a difficult month for many in the Connecticut suburb of Newtown, when the joy of the holiday season around the anniversary of the year is marred by heartbreak nation’s worst primary school shooting.
For former Sandy Hook students who survived the massacre, guilt and fear may increase. For parents, this can mean renewed grief even as they continue to fight for their lost children.
In February, the Sandy Hook families reached a $73 million settlement with gunmaker Remington, which made the gunman’s rifle. Juries in Connecticut and Texas ordered the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones pay $1.4 billion for promoting lies that the massacre was a hoax.
Mid November, a memorial to the 26 victims opened near the new elementary school built to replace the one demolished after the shooting.
Ten years later, the relatives and survivors of some of the victims are not without hope for a better future.
ACTIVISM AFTER THE TRAGEDY
After the massacre, Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden were among the families of many victims who turned to activism. They helped shape it Sandy Hook promisea nonprofit group dedicated to preventing suicides and mass shootings.
Hockley, who lost her 6-year-old son Dylan, and Barden, who lost his 7-year-old son Daniel, both have a hard time believing their children have been gone for a decade.
“To me, Dylan is still this 6-year-old boy frozen in time forever,” Hockley said. “This journey that we’ve taken over the past 10 years doesn’t feel like a decade nor does it feel like 10 years since I last held my son in my arms.”
A decade hasn’t lessened the disbelief Barden and his wife feel at Daniel’s death.
“Jackie and I still have moments where we kind of just look at each other and still contemplate the fact that our little 7-year-old boy was shot in his first grade classroom,” he said.
“I can’t help but wonder what he would be like now at 17,” he said, repeating the number 17. “I just think he’d still be a more mature version of the beautiful, sweet, compassionate, thoughtful, intelligent little one.” boy he was at 7. And it breaks my heart to think of the wonderful impact he would have had in those last 10 years and what was to come and had everything taken from him.”
Sandy Hook Promise programs have been taught in more than 23,000 schools to over 18 million children and adults. Key components include awareness of the warning signs of potential school violence or self-harm and an anonymous alert system to report a classmate at risk of harming others or themselves.
Hockley and Barden say they believe the education programs and reporting system have prevented many suicides and stopped some school shootings.
“It’s a tremendous satisfaction and a great responsibility,” Barden said of the group’s work. “And it’s a gift in a way that we’ve built something that allows us to have this mechanism of honoring our children by saving other children and saving other families from having to endure this pain.”
Growing up as a survivor
Ashley Hubner was in her second grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary when the shooting occurred. She and her classmates ran to the closet to hide. The school intercom went on. Everyone could hear gunshots, screams and crying.
When the police arrived, she and her classmates refused to open the door. They thought bad guys could pose as officers. They yelled “No!” The officers had to convince them that they were actually police officers.
Ashley, now a 17-year-old Newtown High School senior, developed post-traumatic stress disorder and struggled with anxiety and depression. like other students who were there that day. Ashley said she became more and more emotional and testy around the anniversary of filming.
“Even though it’s been 10 years, this issue is still an issue that many of us still have to deal with in our daily lives, and it still affects us deeply,” she said.
Adding to the grief is the fact that mass shootings continue to take place, she said.
“We’ve had 10 years to change things and we’ve changed so little and it’s just gross to me,” she said.
Ashley said the anniversary hasn’t been talked about much among her classmates.
“I feel like everyone is trying to pretend everything is normal and then when it does, I’m sure people will come forward and I’ll reach out to people.”
Ashley wasn’t sure how to start the day. All city schools will be closed for staff development. She said that she might make her first trip to the new memorial.
She said she was pleased with her senior year at Newtown High, calling it one of the best years of school she had. She’s looking forward to college.
“I’m really, really excited to go,” she said. “I just want to have new experiences, grow up and move on with this chapter of my life, you know?”
LIGHT CONQUERS THE DARKNESS
The Church of St. Rose of Lima has been a gathering place for the Newtown community since the day of the shooting Hundreds of people filled the Roman Catholic Church and stood outside for a vigil. Since then it has held a special fair every December 14th.
Monsignor Robert Weiss is still struggling with his own trauma. The church conducted the funerals for eight murdered children. He hasn’t slept well since then and gets emotional easily. During Mass he always watches over the entrances, concerned about a violent intruder.
“It’s a very difficult time for me to have buried eight of these children,” he said of the anniversary. “It just brings back so many memories of true sadness.”
The anniversary fairs are hopeful, Weiss said, with a theme of light conquering darkness.
“The darkness of evil will not defeat good and we as a community must work together to ensure that happens,” Weiss said. “We want to celebrate and remember the children and the families and how this tragedy has been turned into so many positive things to help other people.”
2022 “TURNING POINT” IN GUN SECURITY
After Sandy Hook, many gun violence prevention advocates were frustrated that nothing was being done to stop such massacres. The failure of a gun control law in the months after Sandy Hook was another heavy loss.
But US Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, said the shooting gave new energy to the movement, and numerous groups had formed to demand action.
“In the 10 years before Sandy Hook, the gun lobby controlled Washington. Anything they wanted, they got,” Murphy said.
“After Sandy Hook happened, we started building what I would call a modern day anti-gun violence movement,” he said. “During the next 10 years there was essentially a standstill. The gun lobby didn’t get what they wanted anymore, but unfortunately in Washington we didn’t get what we wanted either.”
After mass shootings last spring killed 21 people at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texasand 10 people at a convenience store in Buffalo, New York Congress passed the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first major federal gun control law in decades. The law expands background checks for younger gun buyers, promotes school mental health programs and promotes “red flag” laws to temporarily confiscate guns from those deemed dangerous.
“I think this summer marked the tipping point where the gun safety movement finally has more power than the gun lobby,” Murphy said.
“It’s going to be a rough December for these families, but I hope they know what a difference they’ve made in the memory of their children over those 10 years.”
https://www.kvue.com/article/news/nation-world/decade-after-sandy-hook-grief-remains-but-hope-grows/507-5d47d0b6-f3ec-4a92-b33b-2ff7b45c34f5 Sandy Hook Anniversary: The sadness remains, but the hope grows