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Sandy Hook school shooting survivors graduate from high school

High school graduation day for Sandy Hook shooting survivors
High school graduation day for Sandy Hook shooting survivors 02:28

NEWTOWN, Conn. - Wednesday is high school graduation day for many of the survivors of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting

About 60 of the more than 300 graduating seniors survived one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. 

Twenty first graders and six educators were killed in the December 14, 2012 mass shooting.   

At the Sandy Hook Memorial, flowers were placed by the names of the educators and fallen classmates who should be there with them

"Sending love and light to all of the graduates," Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont wrote on X.    

Sandy Hook survivors reflect as they graduate

Emma Ehrens was in Classroom 10 at Sandy Hook Elementary when the shooting happened.   

"The shooter actually came into my classroom. So I had to, like, watch all my friends and teachers get killed, and I had to run for my life at six years old," Ehrens said. 

She escaped when the gunman paused to reload. 

"Just growing up with having the fear, and the what ifs of what could have happened if I stayed? Because I was, like, I was going to be next," Ehrens said. 

Photos of Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre victims.  John Moore/Getty Images

Mixed emotions in Newtown

Graduation day comes with mixed emotions, like other milestones. 

"I mean, you wait for this day for your whole life, since you're in kindergarten. You just can't wait to graduate. And it felt so far away for such a long time. But like now it's here and you're ready, but I think we can't forget about that there is a whole chunk of our class missing," survivor Lilly Wasinak 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," survivor Ella Seaver said. 

Shooting motivates their advocacy

The graduating seniors say their fallen classmates have motivated their anti-gun advocacy as part of the Junior Newtown Action Alliance, which is pushing for gun safety. Just last week, some of the students met with Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House. 

Matt Holden, 17, will attend George Washington University and plans to become a politician, advocating for more gun laws. He even asked Harris for an internship when he visited with her. 

"It really felt like she listened to us and what we had to say and she wanted to help us. I think that really gives me some hope that maybe that conversation and others can lead to some real change," Holden said. 

Another student plans to become a therapist. Others hope to become civil rights lawyers. 

The graduates say that even as they are beginning their next chapter, they won't stop fighting for change. 

"I knew I wanted to do something more since I was younger, when the tragedy first happened. I wanted to turn such a terrible thing into something more, and that these children and educators didn't die for nothing," Wasilnak said. 

Since the Sandy Hook shooting, there have been more than 4,200 mass shootings in the United States, including several dozen at schools

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