The survivors of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, who were able to walk out of the school nearly a decade ago, want to share a message of hope with the children of Uvalde, Texas, on how to learn to live with grief, pain, and trauma.
There is another mass shooting, and each time it happens, survivors relive the trauma. These shootings continue to occur in America, causing anger, guilt, and anxiety for the survivors. They struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder and the associated stress. Shock is followed by numbness. They wonder what lies ahead and what they should know.
Grief can affect everyone in different and unexpected ways. Sometimes well-intentioned adults will make wrong decisions to protect you. They may find it difficult to admit their mistakes and acknowledge what they say in Uvalde.
Ashley Hubner, who was a second grader at the Newtown school when 20 children and six educators were tragically killed on December 14, 2012, expressed, “It has been nine years since Sandy Hook. However, it still occurred. Now, these children will have to experience the exact same thing. It is truly devastating. We had nine years to prevent this from happening again.”
This week, the Texas survivors who are going back to school are receiving assistance from the Sandy Hook survivors, who are now on the verge of adulthood, sharing their narratives for the initial time, regarding their experiences as survivors of a mass shooting. The Sandy Hook survivors were greatly affected by the resemblance to their own tragedy when a shooter took the lives of 19 students and two educators at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on May 24.
“I FEEL LIKE I’VE MATURED ALONGSIDE OF IT.”
All the children who were in the school, including Josephine, were killed by the gunman when he shot his way into the building. Gay Marie, a 9-year-old third-grade student, was one of the 26 victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Gay, who is now a college student at the age of 18, expressed, “At first, I believed it was a bear that caused the sound of the gunshots.” “I am unsure. Our residence was situated in rural Connecticut. When I heard the gunshots, my initial assumption was, ‘Oh, there is certainly a bear vigorously striking the school walls.'”
Marie mentioned that the adults surrounding her had good intentions, but certain actions they took after the tragedy troubled her.
Careless, she discovered that her teachers were not careful in using phrases resembling “bullet points.” Before conducting any emergency drills, she would make sure to take them out of the classroom.
She experienced a sense of discomfort regarding the numerous presents that flooded Newtown, particularly in relation to the children from Sandy Hook. She mentioned that the presence of children who formed a queue outside the nearby middle school to receive a doll or a game disrupted the day when hundreds of those gifts were distributed. She herself also became distressed.
She expressed, “The sole child in my sister’s class who managed to survive was the only thing occupying my thoughts at that moment. I acknowledge that I also experienced significant hardships, but mentally, I couldn’t comprehend why all these individuals were enthusiastically seeking presents.”
Marie said that she wanted to make changes to mental health reform, as she found it disheartening. She mentioned that the shooting in Uvalde brought about many emotions.
She looks out of the classroom when she exits, and she still gets anxious in the lecture halls. They will learn to live with it, but a part of them will still experience grief and pain. She said that she would tell the children of Uvalde that grief is an individual path, and she wants them to be kind to others and gentle with themselves.
She expressed, “In this place, there are occasional reminders of it each day.” “However, it has transformed me into a better individual and in addition, I sense personal growth accompanying it.”
“I BELIEVE THAT WHAT OCCURRED ALTERED MY WHOLE EXISTENCE.”
Her symptoms, encompassing post-traumatic stress disorder and melancholy, commenced to overpower her until her time in middle school. Occasionally, she experienced feelings of sadness and shed tears as she matured, the traumatic experience became intertwined with her existence. In the case of Ashley Hubner,
They would strike her more forcefully around the commemoration of the shooting.
Ashley, a senior at Newtown High School, began shooting during the usual morning meeting in her second-grade class. Her sister, a kindergartner, also survived and was in another classroom.
Ashley and her classmates ran to the cubby area to hide. They heard their teacher call the police to report an active shooter. Everyone could hear crying and screaming, as well as gunshots, through the intercom system of the school.
They didn’t want to open the door because they thought those guys could be bad impersonating officers. Finally, when the police came, her classmates and she didn’t know that they were the first responders. They were also frightened by the footsteps they heard on the roof.
She expressed, “We had no intention of granting them entry.” “And thus, every individual child in my class exclaimed, ‘No!'” “It was truly devastating to hear a group of young children shouting ‘No.'” “However, we were grateful that we decided to unlock the door and it turned out to be the police.”
Her sibling was reunited with them at a nearby fire station. They were taken to a nearby fire station, while being escorted out of the structure, to prevent witnessing any of the devastation, the youngsters arranged themselves in a row. They were instructed to place their hands on the shoulders of their peers and to shut their eyes.
Last year, she was diagnosed with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Due to their young age during the shooting, it took some time for their symptoms to fully manifest, possibly because several students claimed that they were not diagnosed with mental health and other conditions until several years later.
She stated, “I believe that the event altered the course of my entire life.” “Perhaps as an adult, one may experience trauma and subsequently triumph over it, thanks to the existence of a previous version of oneself.”
“In the years ahead, you must assimilate that and mature with it and incorporate it into your life and absorb that distress and internalize what you’re taught and adapt to your environment. You don’t truly retain the same identity you possessed when you were so young,” she stated.
Ashley said that she sometimes gets angry at her parents when they don’t believe her or recognize her earlier problems in school, even though she has been going through therapy only recently.
Offering advice to survivors in Uvalde, she emphasized the importance of embracing one’s emotions, conducting thorough research, and seeking necessary assistance. She emphasized the significance of self-awareness, understanding one’s circumstances, and actively working towards improving one’s quality of life, as it greatly impacts overall well-being.
“PRIORITIZE YOUR SELF-HEALING.”
In her college application essay, Liv Doscher wrote about how her classmates and she were forced into a more mature mindset because of what happened in their school.
“But particularly children,” she remarked. “Nobody is, particularly children. However, children are not adequately prepared to handle things of that nature. I believe that nobody, regardless of their age, should have to endure such an experience.”
Liv was feeling bewildered. Without delay, her best friend burst into tears, just like the rest of them. She proclaimed and found it amusing when a joke was told. When gunshots rang out, their classmates from third grade and Liv ran to a carpet in their room.
Liv felt vulnerable and exposed. In addition, the shades on the windows were up. Liv was nervous and fearful of what she might see, so she looked at the door. However, she dropped it, and her teacher put some paper over the window in the hallway.
She couldn’t recognize people finding comfort, and the other classroom down the hall was very dark with the blinds. The children saw them and yelled to go into the adjoining classroom that they shared with theirs, and then the police officers ran outside to the windows.
“I recall merely attempting to perceive in the absence of light, attempting to identify individuals,” she expressed.
She had no idea about the presence of a firearm. She recalls witnessing an officer carrying “a massive weapon.” The police guided the students and teachers to an exit on the school’s opposite side from where the shooting occurred.
Ashley, like many others, suffered from anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder for years before receiving a diagnosis and treatment. It was only last year that she learned about her ADHD. Ashley, particularly during her school years, experienced significant anxiety.
She became extremely depressed and missed two weeks of school around the eighth anniversary of the shooting in December 2020. She often felt numb. She said it took her a long time to reach out for help because she didn’t understand her emotions and kept her feelings inside.
“I couldn’t endure days without shedding tears,” she mentioned. “And you don’t truly comprehend how incapacitating it can be at times.”
Liv, who is now 18, said that after years of frustrations at school, she got therapy for coping with her issues. One of the problems was that there was not enough communication between students, staff, and the available services for addressing mental health issues. Many school staff members apparently avoided talking about the shooting to avoid retraumatizing students.
“I understand the desire to protect us, but we have seen the most horrific parts of it. We were there on that day,” she stated.
She voiced her criticism towards the school authorities for their failure to provide accommodations, such as allowing more time between classes. According to her, on the day of the school anniversary, there would be distressed students rushing to their classes, causing disruptions in the hallways. Recently, students were granted two mental health days, which do not affect their attendance records.
Liv encouraged the children from Uvalde to express their emotions without fear or embarrassment.
She expressed, “value that and simply accept that. Discovering individuals that hold significance to you. Discovering images. Because there are numerous favorable aspects, concentrate on preserving existence in the past and seeking positive aspects. However, also, you understand, concentrate on resolving the distress, what occurred. Concentrate on restoring yourself.”
She expressed, “Avoid comparing yourself with others. Do not feel inadequate just because someone else might be experiencing more difficulties.” “A significant aspect of this is to refrain from feeling ashamed of your current stage in the process of healing.”
Jackie Hegarty has tried various types of therapies to help cope with PTSD, as shootings bring back triggers that startle her with loud noises, like the Sandy Hook mass shootings.
The shooter commenced shooting while the second-grade class was engaged in yoga across the hallway. Unaware of the sound of gunshots, the children in her class speculated that it could have been a janitor accidentally knocking over a garbage bin or someone dropping a chair or desk.
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