Photo courtesy of Sara Keefe

Eight year old me posing with my Christmas tree on December 14th, 2012, the day of the shooting.

        December 14, 2012 should have been a normal day for me. It was a cold and crisp Friday morning in New London, Connecticut. Little eight year old me could not wait to be dismissed from my second grade classroom, as my father was off from work, allowing us to finally go pick out our Christmas tree that night. 

        Before that Friday, the holiday season was my absolute favorite time of year. Unbeknownst to me, shortly after 9 AM in Newtown, my beautiful white Connecticut Christmas would be stained red forever. I will never forget the moment I saw that CNN headline, “26 dead in Connecticut School Shooting”. At that moment, my mind went blank. Looking back now, I think my eight year old innocence prevented me from fully comprehending what I was reading.

        Naturally, I turned to my parents for answers because, at that age, most children think their parents know everything. I will never forget the look on my parents’ faces as they watched the TV; worried, stunned, and emotionless all at the same time. For the first time, my parents were at a loss for words. In their defense, how is one supposed to tell an eight year old  that 20 children were murdered; in their first grade classroom, a mere hour away?

        I remember sitting in the living room with my parents. That’s when I saw his face. The man responsible for the massacre, who I refuse to name.  In that moment, one of my biggest fears was formed, him. 

        For the longest time, I refused to admit to myself and others just how scared I was of him. That one notable photo of him was ingrained in my brain to the point where it would appear in my dreams, terrorizing me. Nearly ten years later and I still can not look at that image without feeling unsafe and tense.  That fear spread to guns and loud sounds, especially balloons popping.

        Unfortunately, this narrative is nothing new in this country. Gun violence and mass shootings have become this country’s newest epidemic. A new CNN headline appearing every week. Like how the previous generation had to hide under desks for nuclear bomb threats, my generation has been trained to find the best hiding spots in the classroom to protect us from hatred in the form of AR-15 bullets.

        Our country has reached a point where one can simply say the name of a town and the American brain will instantly think of a mass murder: Newtown, Parkland, Columbine, Blacksburg. I am only 17 years old and my life has been plagued by massacres and lockdown drills. 

Sandy Hook community gathers for vigil in honor of victims. (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

       To be brutally honest, I have a hard time believing that our nation’s leaders even care. How many children need to be murdered for them to pay attention? In my eyes, the current Republican party is still living in 1787. It seems that they would prefer to protect the outdated outline of the Second Amendment rather than the people who elected them to serve . When that amendment was drafted, the threat of never ending gun violence in schools was still unthinkable. Times have changed, and so should our laws. I have supported the idea that universal background checks and a military style rifle ban are two of the easiest ways to prevent mass gun violence in our schools and communities. 

        In this country, mass shootings will never become “old news”, as another one occurs before we can comprehend the aftermath of the first. It’s a violent and repetitive cycle that seems never ending, yet the resolution is simple. The bottom line is this: Sandy Hook should have never happened, and the fact that it wasn’t the final straw for republican politicians angers me. Twenty children were killed in their classroom and all you could do was offer your “thoughts and prayers” on Twitter? 

        It has been nine years since that horrible day, and as the 2022 midterm elections approach, I know that the memories of my experience will follow me into the voting booth.