Before Newtown, there was Stockton, California

(CBS News) STOCKTON, Calif. - More than two decades before Newtown, a gunman opened fire on children at a California elementary school. Five children were killed, 29 others were hurt.

Teachers who lived through that massacre have remained silent -- until now.

The 1989 Cleveland Elementary School shooting

In January 1989, in Stockton, Calif., a mentally ill man with a legally purchased AK-47 opened fire on the Cleveland Elementary School playground.

"There was just blood everywhere," said one retired teacher, Judy Weldon.

Former teachers Julie Schardt, Sue Rothman and Weldon vividly recalled the unfolding chaos.

"I asked her what was going on. She said 'Oh my God, they're killing our kids," said Schardt.

One of those kids was a student in Schardt's second grade class.

"I can remember looking down at her and seeing her little red shoes, and seeing her little face... this was a baby of eight years old," she said.

As the years moved on, the teachers relived the pain of that day whenever another school attack was on the news: Columbine, Virginia Tech, and recently, Newtown.

"You relive the heartbreak, you relive the pain, and then you move past it, and go on. But with Newtown, what happened was, I got angry ... that nothing has been done," Schardt said.

So after 24 years, these teachers say it's finally time for something to be done.

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"We're not asking that hunters put away their guns. All we're asking for is a conversation, and some action about being reasonable about this, looking at what these kinds of weapons can do," Schardt said.

They've started a website to add their voices to the national debate over gun laws.

Although the teachers have been able to focus this energy on their new cause, they said it's not helping them heal.

"I don't think we'll ever heal. Those scars will always be vulnerable to being opened again," Rothman said.

"I regret that this country has continued to let this happen," Weldon added. "That's my regret. But it doesn't involve me ... Now it does. So this is, this is the moment."

These teachers may be retired, but their commitment again is to educate.