Sandy Hook: A Decade Later

It’s hard to believe that a decade has passed since the Sandy Hook shootings, in which a mother, teaching staff and students died.

As the number and severity of these tragic mass shootings grew, survivors reached out to those who shared a unique, terrible experience.

“Good Morning America” made an excellent piece, asking “more than one dozen survivors of school shootings across the country and across generations to write letters to the next school shooting survivor, to tell them what to expect in the days, weeks, months and years ahead, and what they wish they had known when it happened to them.”

I encourage you to read them all. I will excerpt and comment on certain parts that stood out to me.

Jackie Hagerty, who survived Sandy Hook, writes:

“I’m afraid of loud noises, and I startle when I hear a door slam, or a hydro flask fall. I never enter a new place without knowing where an exit is. In public spaces, I seat myself where I can always see a door in case a threat comes in. I always make sure my classes have a hiding spot in close proximity. This is my life as a gun violence survivor.”

“…The reason why I am writing this is because the aftermath of a tragedy is not just the few days that gain the public’s attention. It’s the years of mourning, grieving and processing…I think the biggest thing I want to stress is that everyone’s trauma is different. Don’t invalidate your trauma because ‘other people’ have it worse, or that other people deserve to have a stronger response.”

Imagine whenever you went out in public, you had to analyze the escape routes of wherever you were, keeping your eyes on the door, in case a threat would burst in. Imagine that you can no longer attend parties, concerts of festivals because the noise is too much. And imagine that most people have long forgotten about what you experience every single day, doing everything you can to validate your trauma. It’s a load that no one should have to bear.

Jazmin Cazares, who survived the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas earlier this year, writes:

“Not even an hour after finding out about my sister’s passing, the media had gotten my number….A day later, they found our house. You’ll learn that you may have a love/hate relationship with the media. It can be frustrating at times, but they are the people that are going to get your story out, if you want it out.”

Not only did Ms. Cazares have to experience the death of her young sister, a pure nightmare, she had the media hounding her within one hour of finding out. How does someone cope? Yet, if you want your story told, you need to work with the media. It’s a

Dan Williams, who survived the 2012 Chardon High School shooting in Chardon, Ohio, writes:

“I wish someone would have told me that trauma is something that never goes away and that you will always need to continue working on it. I wish that someone would have told me that it is OK to distance yourself from relationships or experiences that you feel are detrimental to your mental health, even if others disagree with you.”

Zoe Touray, who survived the 2021 Oxford High School shooting in Oxford, Michigan writes:

“My community got ‘thoughts and prayers.’ At first it was nice to hear. Then it made me angry because people who hadn’t gone through what we did offered thoughts and prayers, but they were just words. My friends and classmates are gone. Our innocence was still ripped away.”

A decade or perhaps longer in the past, I struggled to comprehend why ‘thoughts and prayers’ could be so insulting. But if I had underwent what Ms. Touray did, and all people offered were words, I’d be angry too. Actions speak louder than words, especially when children are dying simply trying to learn and be kids.

Bryanna Love, survivor of the 2022 St. Louis Central Visual & Performing Arts High School in St. Louis, Missouri, writes:

“I hope you’re upset. I hope you’re angry. I hope you know your voice and actions matter. I’m not just going to tell you to vote harder-It’s clearly not working. The people with the power to change things don’t want it to work. They’ll stall any and all legislation until this happens to every school in the country. They do not care, and will not care as long as they continue to profit off of the status quo. As such, I encourage you to rock the boat. I encourage you to kick and scream and fight until they have no choice but to listen to you. Do whatever it takes.”

Ms. Love articulates why I title this blog ‘The Primacy of Politics.’ Few care about politics until it affects them in a substantial way, until they are impossible to ignore. When the stakes are so high, make sure those in power know. Don’t make their lives easy. Become impossible to ignore, as MLK, Mahatma Gandhi and others have done.

Heather Martin, who survived the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado, writes:

“In the days, months and even years of the aftermath, the feelings I remember the most are all of anger: I was angry at the media for being there, for getting our stories wrong. I was angry at people talking about it at all when they weren’t even there. I was angry at those trying to connect to my experience with phrases similar to ‘I could have been’ or ‘I would have been.’ I think I was mostly angry at those who told me what they would have done had they been there or had they been in my situation.

Anger is so much easier than grief.”

Ms. Martin is honest and real. How could you not be angry with media personnel hounding you and getting details wrong, building their careers on your tragedy? How could you not be angry with people suggesting to you hypotheticals when they didn’t experience what you did? Yet, anger can distract you from grief and healing, so you can in some way move on with your life.

* * *

After contemplating all the survivor accounts, I was hit with a variety of emotions. Anger, sadness, confusion, fear. It’s heartbreaking that communities and organizations have to be made for survivors of mass shootings. The Rebel Project, founded by Columbine survivors, will hopefully reach all those suffering from a burden they never asked.

When I was in grade school, the Columbine shooting was regarded as a horrific anomaly, something that would not be repeated. How wrong we were, as we often are.

The fact that we are talking about the survivors and not the perpetrators is a small victory. The handful of articles that I found about Sandy Hook or other mass shootings did not mention the culprit. Maybe fewer copycats will be inspired when they realize their infamy and power will not last.

It’s a sad tenth anniversary. I wish I could declare that the future will be different.

Read those survivor accounts and find the best way to assist.

We owe to them, to those who did not survive, and to ourselves.


I am a young professional with keen interests in politics, history, foreign languages and the arts.

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Patrick McCorkle

I am a young professional with keen interests in politics, history, foreign languages and the arts.