Sandy Hook survivors are graduating this week. 20 of their classmates never made it past first grade.

Emma Ehrens is a high school senior. She is graduating this week, excited to have her name read out on stage and be called to collect her diploma.

She is no ordinary graduate though. 

Ehrens was at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. She is a survivor. 

Ehrens, along with approximately 60 other survivors from the Sandy Hook massacre are graduating high school. However, 20 children missed out on that opportunity, never making it past the first grade.

"[I'm] thinking about all the what ifs: what if they were sitting next to me at graduation, what if we were still friends, where would we be? It's just going to be a lot of what ifs in my head," she told CNN.

A fellow graduating classmate of Ehrens also told CNN: "It's just going to be heartbreaking. I can't imagine that 20 kids are not graduating with us and that they're not having the opportunity to walk across the stage."

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12 years ago, 27 victims were killed in a mass shooting. They were gunned down by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who used a rifle to carry out the massacre before ending his own life. Prior to the school shooting, he had also murdered his 52-year-old mother.

Six teachers died: Rachel D'Avino, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau Mary Sherlach and Victoria Soto. 


20 children never had the chance to grow up: Charlotte Bacon, six, Daniel Barden, seven, Olivia Engel, six, Josephine Gay, seven, Dylan Hockley, six, Madeleine Hsu, six, Catherine Hubbard, six, Chase Kowalski, seven, Ana Marquez-Greene, six, Emilie Parker, six, James Mattioli, six, Grace McDonnell, seven, Jack Pinto, six, Noah Pozner, six, Caroline Previdi, six, Jessica Rekos, six, Avielle Richman, six, Benjamin Wheeler, six, Allison Wyatt, six, and Jesse Lewis, six.

The vast majority of the survivors from the school shooting ended up attending Newtown High School. They all say they feel extremely bittersweet about their graduation ceremony.

Lilly Wasilnak was in a classroom down the hall from where her peers were killed in 2012. 

"I think we can't forget that there is a whole chunk of our class missing," she told ABC.

"And so going into graduation, we all have very mixed emotions — trying to be excited for ourselves and this accomplishment that we've worked so hard for, but also those who aren't able to share it with us, who should have been able to."

Speaking at a press conference this week, survivor and student Ella Seaver said she thinks about her classmates who died at six and seven years old often.

"What if they were my prom date? What if one of them were my significant other? What if they were able to walk the stage with me? Who would I still be friends with now?"

The Sandy Hook survivors have also been through another ordeal in recent years.

Alex Jones, a conservative, alt-right radio show host and prominent conspiracy theorist, was convinced the shooting was a hoax. For years, he and his fans harassed the grieving relatives and survivors of Sandy Hook, claiming they are "crisis actors" in a government plot.


A jury ordered Jones to pay $A1.5 billion in damages to some of the impacted families for his actions. He has since filed for bankruptcy. 

"Jesse was real. I am a real mum," Scarlett Lewis told a courtroom following Jones' conviction. Lewis is the mother of Jesse Lewis, who was one of the 20 children murdered in the shooting. She described the conspiracy bombardment as a "living hell".

Newtown High School's Class of 2024 students will be wearing green and white ribbons on their graduation gowns, each inscribed with "Forever In Our Hearts". It's a tribute not only to those who lost their lives in 2012 but to their families who have had to pick up the pieces in the decade since. 

Although they survived the massacre, these students' lives were changed the moment bullets started whizzing by them in their classrooms. In prior interviews, many have spoken about their trauma response to loud noises, others saying they are always watching the nearest exit when in various buildings.

They hope that with graduation comes a new chapter in each of their lives — a chance to live life to the fullest.

17-year-old Matt Holden told the press conference this week: "I think leaving and being able to make new memories and meet new people, even if we'll be more isolated away from people who have stories like us, we'll be more free to kind of write our own story."

"For me, I feel like it's definitely going to get better and be able to break free of that system and just be able to become my own person rather than, again, the Sandy Hook kid."

Feature Image: AAP.