This past Dec. 14, communities nationwide mourned the seventh anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, during which 20 children and six of their educators were massacred at the hands of a young man carrying an assault rifle. Just as 9/11 catalyzed an influx in airport security, the horrors of Sandy Hook catalyzed an increase of school security initiatives: surveillance cameras, bulletproof doors and security, sophisticated locks and school resource officers (SROs).
While the student victims of Sandy Hook are remembered as six and seven year-old children, their peers who survived are now high school juniors and seniors. On top of the typical stressors of high school –friend conflicts, college preparation and finals– these students also deal with constant reminders of trauma. And they aren’t alone. Thousands of other high schoolers have seen the same nightmares of shouting, pounding on doors and pops of gunfire. Some have seen their classmates bleed to death. Countless parents have become familiar with the fear that their children may not return from school.
Common loss has surfaced common sentiment of solidarity and movement. Several survivors of Sandy Hook have joined gun violence prevention initiatives, coalitions and conferences.
Back at home, the Newtown community has unified unconventionally: through a won football state championship. Captured on video, the players –ecstatic about Newtown’s conclusive touchdown– embraced emotionally. Their play meant more to the community than just a win, it meant persistence.