Remembering Sandy Hook, school shooting victims

December marks the 10-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

December 14, 2012. Barely seven years old, we huddled together outside during recess, our breath fogging up as we talked in mournful tones.

“Did you hear?” my best friend asked. “All those kids died.”

“I know,” I said, nodding sympathetically and kicking a wood chip with my light pink snow boot. “It’s so sad.”

We’d heard the news by then: a 20-year-old man shot and killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Six were adults and 20 were children ages 6 and 7.

That morning, I came downstairs to the back of my mom’s head: a usual sight. She was reading the newspaper.

Her blonde hair shielded her face. I walked further and saw her crying over the news. Her salty tears stained the print. I think she hugged me.

I remember she made us pancakes, which was weird because my mom never made us pancakes on a school day.

It was a big deal. My classmates and I discussed it.

I heard one Sandy Hook teacher hid her students in a closet and died protecting them. They were first graders, just like us. I wondered if my teacher would ever have to do anything like that for me.

My mom said nothing like that could ever happen at our school, because we had a buzzer system. Later I found out she lied to reassure us. The shooter at Sandy Hook shot through the glass of the entrance.

It’s hard when you realize your school may not be safe. But I’m relatively fortunate. I recognize the privilege I have that school is my most unsafe place, as opposed to my neighborhood or my home.

When I was in sixth grade, we remembered the victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that happened on Feb. 14, 2018 by wearing orange and standing outside silently in the freezing Chicago air as cars on Ridgeland Avenue whizzed by.

My math teacher showed us a video of the victims and asked us to remember one name, just one. She told us it would be enough to never let that person’s memory fade. I looked around that classroom, surveying my classmates in our orange

attire, and felt an excruciating sadness. It hurt that I could imagine it happening to me–to us.

I remember thinking I’d never forget that name. I’ve tried, but I just can’t remember. There have been so many. So many names and so many deaths. Since October 2022, there have been 35 School Shootings, and that’s only counting the ones that resulted in injury or death. According to Education Week that is “more than in any single year since… 2018.”

Still, we try to remember.

This November, a memorial dedicated to remembering and grieving the lives lost in the Sandy Hook shooting was unveiled. The memorial, a circular area of gray stone with one tree placed in the center, is surrounded by nature. The New York Times’ Jesse Dorris said “The natural world throws light onto the unnatural; life and death is the soul of landscape architecture,” meaning simply existing in that area means remembering the lives that were lost.

Some people want us to forget. Alex Jones, a conservative radio host, has claimed for years that the Sandy Hook shooting was not real and was staged by the government, invalidating the feelings of grieving families. According to NPR, “A group of Sandy Hook families filed suit in 2018, saying that they had endured stalking, harassment and death threats as a result of Jones’s lies.” As a result, the talk show host has had to pay a total of almost half a billion dollars in damages, according to CNN Business.

The 20 kids killed in the Sandy Hook shooting would be turning seventeen this school year. They would have been stressing about homework, looking forward to break and discussing their Spotify Wrapped.

They, and so many other children, never got the chance to stress, to discuss, to live. To grow up. The least we can do is to try not to forget them.