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Graduation day is bittersweet for Sandy Hook shooting survivors

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Graduation day is bittersweet for high school seniors and their families everywhere, but perhaps more so for a group of students walking the stage Wednesday, June 12, in Newtown, Connecticut. While 330 students are graduating high school there, 350 names will be read out because of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. 

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The 20 extra names will be those of the students whose lives were taken too soon on a December day in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School. That’s when a gunman went into two first-grade classrooms and opened fire, killing 20 students and six educators. 

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Ahead of their graduation, survivors of that day reflected. 

“The what-ifs kind of spoil a lot of precious moments, you know, just because you always remember that they’re not there,” Ella Seaver said. “So, even going to prom, you think, ‘Well, what if they were my prom date?’ Or, you know, ‘What if they were my significant other? What if they were able to walk the stage with me. Who would I still be friends with now?’” 

The class of 2024 is wearing green and white ribbons on their graduation gowns that say “forever in our hearts” as another way to memorialize their classmates who never got to make it to this milestone. However, that’s not all they’re doing. 

A group of seniors who survived the shooting have been active in the Junior Newtown Action Alliance’s efforts to end gun violence — even taking part in a rally on Friday, June 7, just days ahead of walking the stage. 

“I wanted to turn such a terrible thing into something more, and that these children and educators didn’t die for nothing,” survivor Lilly Wasilnak said. “Of course it was awful what happened to them, and it should have never happened. But I think that for me, something bigger needed to come out of it, or else it would have been all for nothing.” 

The Sandy Hook massacre was the deadliest elementary school shooting in U.S. history. 

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[KARAH RUCKER]

GRADUATION DAY IS BITTERSWEET FOR HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS AND THEIR FAMILIES EVERYWHERE… BUT PERHAPS MORE SO FOR A GROUP OF STUDENTS WALKING THE STAGE WEDNESDAY IN NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT.

WHILE 330 STUDENTS ARE GRADUATING HIGH SCHOOL THERE TODAY… 350 NAMES WILL BE READ OUT.

THE 20 EXTRA NAMES WILL BE THOSE OF THE STUDENTS WHOSE LIVES WERE TAKEN TOO SOON ON A DECEMBER DAY IN 2012 AT SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.

THAT’S WHEN A GUNMAN WENT INTO TWO FIRST-GRADE CLASSROOMS AND OPENED FIRE… KILLING 20 STUDENTS AND SIX EDUCATORS.

AHEAD OF THEIR GRADUATION…SURVIVORS OF THAT TRAGIC DAY ARE REFLECTING.

Ella Seaver, Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting Survivor

“The what-ifs kind of spoil a lot of precious moments, you know, just because you always remember that they’re not there. So even going to prom, you think, well, what if they were my prom date? Or, you know, what if they were my significant other? What if they were able to walk the stage with me. Who would I still be friends with now?”

[KARAH RUCKER]

THE CLASS OF 2024 WILL BE WEARING GREEN AND WHITE RIBBONS ON THEIR GRADUATION GOWNS THAT SAY “FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS” AS ANOTHER WAY TO MEMORIALIZE THEIR CLASSMATES WHO NEVER GOT TO MAKE IT TO THIS MILESTONE.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL THEY’RE DOING.

A GROUP OF SENIORS WHO SURVIVED THE SHOOTING HAVE BEEN ACTIVE IN THE JUNIOR NEWTOWN ACTION ALLIANCE’S EFFORTS TO END GUN VIOLENCE – EVEN TAKING PART IN A RALLY LAST FRIDAY… JUST DAYS AHEAD OF WALKING THE STAGE.

Lilly Wasilnak, Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting Survivor

“I wanted to turn such a terrible thing into something more, and that these children and educators didn’t die for nothing. Of course it was awful what happened to them, and it should have never happened. But I think that for me, something bigger needed to come out of it, or else it would have been all for nothing.”

[KARAH RUCKER]

THE SANDY HOOK MASSACRE WAS THE DEADLIEST ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SHOOTING IN U-S HISTORY.