Sandy Hook Survivors Celebrate High School Graduation and Renew Call for Gun Control

Sandy Hook Survivors Celebrate High School Graduation and Renew Call for Gun Control

Riddhi Doshi 13/06/2024
Sandy Hook Survivors Celebrate High School Graduation and Renew Call for Gun Control

More than a decade after the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a group of survivors from that fateful day are celebrating their high school graduation.

On December 14, 2012, a quiet suburb in Connecticut was forever changed when a shooter took the lives of 20 students and six staff members. The youngest victims were only six years old.

On Wednesday evening, a private graduation ceremony was held at Newtown High School, attended by around 60 survivors. The event was marked by a mix of joy and poignant remembrance as students reflected on their journey and the friends they lost.

Emma Ehrens, one of the survivors, shared her harrowing experience with CBS News, the BBC’s US partner. "The shooter actually came into my classroom. So I had to, like, watch all my friends and teachers get killed, and I had to run for my life at six years old," she recounted. "Just growing up with having the fear, and the what-ifs of what could have happened if I stayed? Because I was, like, I was going to be next."

Another survivor, Lilly Wasilnak, expressed the bittersweet nature of reaching this milestone. "You wait for this day your whole life, since you're in kindergarten. You just can't wait to graduate. And it felt so far away for such a long time… but I think we can't forget that there is a whole chunk of our class missing."

Many of the survivors have channeled their experiences into activism, volunteering for gun control groups. Recently, several of them met with Vice-President Kamala Harris at the White House, highlighting their ongoing commitment to advocating for change.

The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was perpetrated by a 20-year-old armed with two rifles and a handgun. The shooter died from a self-inflicted gunshot as police arrived on the scene. The attack remains the deadliest ever at a US primary school.

The incident profoundly affected the nation, with then-President Barack Obama calling it “the single darkest day of my presidency.” In response, Obama proposed a comprehensive set of laws aimed at curbing gun violence. Despite implementing several reforms to the US background check system through executive orders, two major legislative efforts failed to pass Congress. These proposed laws, which had bipartisan support, sought to ban assault rifles and enforce background checks on most private gun sales. However, they were ultimately blocked by a combination of Republican and some Democratic senators.

Since the Sandy Hook shooting, the United States has experienced over 4,200 mass shootings, including several dozen at schools, according to CBS. The persistent issue of gun violence continues to fuel debate and calls for more stringent gun control measures.

As the Sandy Hook survivors step into their future, their stories and voices remain a powerful testament to the enduring impact of that tragic day. Their graduation is not just a personal achievement but a reminder of the lives lost and the ongoing struggle for a safer future.

The emotional complexity of this milestone is palpable. While it is a moment of celebration and forward-looking hope, it is also a time to honor those who were lost and to continue the fight for change that so many of these young graduates have embraced. Their resilience and commitment to advocacy stand as a beacon of hope and a call to action for all who wish to see an end to such senseless violence.

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Riddhi Doshi

Mental Health Expert

Riddhi Doshi trains and coaches corporate leaders, educators and parents on issues of mental health and behavior. She is an internationally certified Parenting & Behaviour Coach. In past 15+ years she has conducted 2540+ open workshops, delivered 87000+ hours of talks, 53000+ hours of counseling sessions covering 59000+ students and 62,000+ women from various fields. Parenting sessions conducted by Riddhi are housefull and recent;y she completed her 366th Parenting session. She has been a speaker and advisor at various institutions and organizations including IIM, Ahmedabad, Rotary Club, Tata Power, Larson & Toubro and The Time of India. She holds an MBA in HRD, LLM and numerous other professional certifications from prestigious international institutions including University of Cambridge, BSY University, London, City & Guilds, London, Tata Institute of Social Sciences and NMIMS, Mumbai. She has been awarded with “National Award for Cultural Activities by AVANTIKA- Delhi”, “Excellence in Wellness”, “Young Entrepreneurs Award”, “Self Made Diva Award” among various others. With a mission to “make corporate leaders, educators and parents empowered and more aware about mental health & wellness”, Riddhi regularly gives interviews on leading media platforms. She loves to interact with corporate leaders, educators and parents to discuss about women issues, child psychology and parenting challenges.

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