Trauma from Sandy Hook in a college setting


Ali Fernand Features Editor

Dec. 14 will mark the ten-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy. As this milestone event approaches, I am forced to reflect on the impact it has had on my life. The town that I grew up in, my elementary school, my childhood; it all changed forever. 

I feel guilt for the trauma I have from Sandy Hook. I had graduated the year before, so I was not there. None of the victims were my family members. I have made myself feel as if my trauma that resulted from the atrocity was not as valid as those around me. But I saw and felt the pain firsthand; my peers who lost their siblings. My favorite substitute teacher, Miss Soto, was being talked about like a legacy. She was a hero, but she did not need to be. The classroom aid, Mrs. Murphy, who I had in my third and fourth grade classes, has now just gone. And my beloved principal, Dr. Hochsprung, was such a positive role model for me as a child.  

I was just 10 years old when the tragedy first happened. I remember that Friday better than I remember my high school graduation. We sat in lockdown for hours and hours. They did not tell us what was going on, even when the police had determined that we were safe and could go home. I took the bus home like normal, to find both my parents waiting at the bus stop. I immediately knew something terrible had happened. My parents sat my brother and I down on the couch and explained to us what had happened as best as one could to your children. I remember lying in my mother’s arms crying for the rest of the weekend. My family members were calling my parents all day unsure if we still went to Sandy Hook to make sure we were okay.  

The young girls I danced with at my studio were there when it happened. I comforted 6 year old girls as they told me about their stories. Their teachers hid them in the corner as they covered their ears. No little girl should have to go through that.  

I never fully healed from all the pain I saw. Even at 20 years old, I must deal with constant reminders. Every time I tell someone I am from Newtown; their faces just completely drop. They immediately ask, “were you there?”  

As a journalism and political science student, I also hear my professors use Sandy Hook as examples in class. Though I do not think they know my proximity, it still hurts me. To hear something that was so deeply traumatizing be used as just a case study in class is painful. Especially as the Alex Jones trials have been happening, I feel I have just heard about Sandy Hook more and more.  

At the university, I have experienced a new type of pain from the tragedy. While at Newtown High School, I at least could relate to my peers. We had all experienced the same thing. There were many people and still are many who are rather insensitive about Sandy Hook, but I had the general comfort of a damaged community.  

I am isolated by my pain at the university. When Sandy Hook is brought up in class, my brain shuts down. I become very quiet, not knowing if I should speak up. I do not even know how I would. I know that my professors do not mean to trigger me, but they need to be more conscious. The people affected by Sandy Hook are not children anymore. I am barely older than the third and fourth graders who were at the school.  

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