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Nature

Sirga the Lioness was abandoned as a cub. She grew up to be a huge TikTok star.

nature, lions, poaching, wildlife, nature conservation

Sirga the Lion and Valentine Gruener on Instagram.

Little lioness Sirga was discovered when she was only a few days old. Born in a rehabilitation camp, her mother couldn't defend her cubs and all her siblings were killed by other lions.

To make matters worse, Sirga’s mother refused to feed her.

But then Sirga found Valentine Gruener, co-founder of the Modisa Wildlife Project. In an interview with NBC News, Gruener revealed he chose the name “Sirga” after a 1993 french film “L’enfant lion.”

The name couldn’t have been more perfect. For Sirga was clearly destined to become a star.


Their claim to fame...

@sirgathelioness

Sirga doesn‘t understand the concept of social distancing. Luckily, she doesn‘t have to. ##tiktokwildlifeday

♬ Oh No I Hope I Don't Fall... - IndieHay

Sirga and Gruener’s most viral video shows the gentle giant giving the biggest, sweetest, most exuberant greeting to her caretaker. You know when big dogs don't realize how massive they are? Yeah, it’s like that.

“Sirga doesn’t understand the concept of social distancing,“ the video’s caption reads.

This video currently has close to 195,000 likes, and received a massive amount of positive reactions:

"She’s soooo happy to see you and love up on you."

"So beautiful!!! Love your relationship with such a powerful and amazing girl."

"I want a big cat hug!"

Since rising to social media stardom, Gruener and Sirga have racked up quite a few amazing TikToks. Below are some of the highlights:

Teeth brushing (hard with big cats and little cats alike)

@sirgathelioness

The teeth in the back of a lions jaw act like scissors, they’ll cut through flesh and bones with ease. Sirga knows when to be gentle though 😉 ##wildlife

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Sirga cleans off her canines with a small stick, although Gruener admits that it's more for entertainment than it is hygiene.

Massive toe beans

@sirgathelioness

Reply to @otterlyvirgo lion claws are shaped like hooks. Deadly weapons with which they pull down large prey like antelope or buffalo

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Those are certainly some impressive murder mittens.

Some cool hunting POVS

@sirgathelioness

Hey @GoPro can you send new gear?😬🥲 ##wildlife

♬ Marlboro Nights - Lonely God

Sirga does her own hunting on the reserve, which is six times larger than Central Park in New York City.

…and hunting fails

@sirgathelioness

The poor guy had no clue 😅 ##wildlife

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Jackal: 1. Sirga: 0.

But hey, you win some, you lose some.

Plus a heartwarming look at then vs. now

@sirgathelioness

Happy Birthday big girl! We‘ve come a long way 👣🐾 ##animalsoftiktok ##lioness

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

It's pretty endearing to see their bond grow over 10 years.

Gruener even uses the platform to answer some common questions, such as:

Would Sirga protect Gruener?

@sirgathelioness

Reply to @anactualpinecone Probably the most asked question about Sirga and me. Here you go!

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Camera operators, beware.

 Does she interact with anyone else?

@sirgathelioness

Reply to @sean_n17 let me know if you have any questions regarding Sirga in the comments! Cheers, Val

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

No, the trained professional is the only person who interacts with the lovable, yet all the same predatory animal.

Why not let her back into the wild?

@sirgathelioness

By hand-raising Sirga I made a commitment to care for her as long as she lives. The risks of her being killed (or she being a threat to people/livestock) in the wild is just too big. ##lionsoftiktok

♬ Stories 2 - Danilo Stankovic

Basically, the risks of being in the wild far outweigh the potential benefits.

Why does she wear a tracking collar?

@sirgathelioness

Reply to @ericsaltzman42 a lot going on at the moment so we haven‘t found the time to post on TikTok! Thank you if you‘re still here 😉🙌

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Again, this is a safety measure. Mainly against poachers and in case Sirga gets out.

How much does it cost to feed her?

@sirgathelioness

Happy to answer your questions. Feel free to leave your question about Sirga, me or my life in the comments. ##sirgathelioness

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Answer: around $500 a month. That's a whole lotta meat.

Has Sirga met other lions?

@sirgathelioness

Reply to @hetpatel4620 happy to answer your questions! ##sirgathelioness

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Yes! Though the fence has been a boundary. Sirga would at first shy away from her initial lion visitor, but then they ended up sleeping side by side. Sadly the lion visitors have since passed away (or, even more tragic, were possibly poached). But the plan is for Sirga to eventually have her own lion partner at Modisa.

Can lions be pets? (this one seems obvious)

@sirgathelioness

Predators are not pets! Sirga has 2000ha of wild Kalahari where she lives and hunts. If you have any questions drop them in comments!

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Repeat after me: "Predators are not pets."

Actually Gruener brings up a point here that applies to most pets: that you should be committed to the animals full life span if you're going to take care of one.

Gruener also shared that he hopes their story promotes awareness for wildlife and nature conservation, rather than using big pets for fleeting entertainment.

Gruener and Sirga are helping to spread information about the importance of protecting precious wildlife. If you’re looking to help support them, and get the lion’s share of premium content, you can join their Patreon membership here.

May we all find someone who looks at us the way these two look at each other.

Sponsored

3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

The generational caption debate is a big deal.


If you’re a Gen Xer or older, one surprising habit the younger generations developed is their love of subtitles or closed-captioning while watching TV. To older generations, closed-captioning was only for grandparents, the hearing impaired, or when watching the news in a restaurant or gym.

But these days, studies show that Millenials and Gen Z are big fans of captions and regularly turn them on when watching their favorite streaming platforms. A recent study found that more than half of Gen Z and Millenials prefer captions on when watching television.

It’s believed that their preference for subtitles stems from the ubiquity of captioning on social media sites such as TikTok or Instagram.


This generational change perplexed TikTokker, teacher and Gen X mother, Kelly Gibson.

Always leaning! #genx #millennial #caption #learning

@gibsonishere

Always leaning! #genx #millennial #caption #learning

"I have three daughters, and they were here. Two of them are young millennials; the other one is an older Gen Z," Gibson explained in a video with over 400,000 views. "All of them were like, 'Why don't you have the captions on?'”

The mother couldn’t believe that her young kids preferred to watch TV like her grandparents. It just did not compute.

"My Gen X butt was shocked to find out that these young people have decided it's absolutely OK to watch movies with the captions going the whole time," she said jokingly.

But like a good mother, Gibson asked her girls why they preferred to watch TV with captioning, and their reason was straightforward. With subtitles, it’s easier not to lose track of the dialog if people in the room start talking.

"They get more out of it," Gibson explained. "If somebody talks to them in the middle of the show, they can still read and get what's going on even if they can't hear clearly. Why are young people so much smarter than us?"

At the end of the video, Gibson asked her followers whether they watch TV with subtitles on or off. "How many of you out there that are Millennials actually do this? And how many of you Gen Xers are so excited that this is potentially an option?" she asked.

Gibson received over 8,400 responses to her question, and people have a lot of different reasons for preferring to watch TV with captions.

“Millennial here. I have ADHD along with the occasional audio processing issues. I love captions. Also, sometimes I like crunchy movie snacks,” Jessileemorgan wrote. “We use the captions because I (GenX) hate the inability of the movie makers to keep sound consistent. Ex: explosions too loud conversation to quiet,” Lara Lytle added.

“My kids do this and since we can’t figure out how to turn it off when they leave, it’s become a staple. GenX here!” Kelly Piller wrote.

The interesting takeaway from the debate is that anti-caption people often believe that having writing on the screen distracts them from the movie. They’re too busy reading the bottom of the screen to feel the film's emotional impact or enjoy the acting and cinematography. However, those who are pro-caption say that it makes the film easier to understand and helps them stay involved with the film when there are distractions.

So who’s right? The person holding the remote.


This article originally appeared on 1.11.24

Images provided by P&G

Three winners will be selected to receive $1000 donated to the charity of their choice.

True

Doing good is its own reward, but sometimes recognizing these acts of kindness helps bring even more good into the world. That’s why we’re excited to partner with P&G again on the #ActsOfGood Awards.

The #ActsOfGood Awards recognize individuals who actively support their communities. It could be a rockstar volunteer, an amazing community leader, or someone who shows up for others in special ways.

Do you know someone in your community doing #ActsOfGood? Nominate them between April 24th-June 3rdhere.Three winners will receive $1,000 dedicated to the charity of their choice, plus their story will be highlighted on Upworthy’s social channels. And yes, it’s totally fine to nominate yourself!

We want to see the good work you’re doing and most of all, we want to help you make a difference.

While every good deed is meaningful, winners will be selected based on how well they reflect Upworthy and P&G’s commitment to do #ActsOfGood to help communities grow.

That means be on the lookout for individuals who:

Strengthen their community

Make a tangible and unique impact

Go above and beyond day-to-day work

The #ActsOfGood Awards are just one part of P&G’s larger mission to help communities around the world to grow. For generations, P&G has been a force for growth—making everyday products that people love and trust—while also being a force for good by giving back to the communities where we live, work, and serve consumers. This includes serving over 90,000 people affected by emergencies and disasters through the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry program and helping some of the millions of girls who miss school due to a lack of access to period products through the Always #EndPeriodPoverty initiative.

Visit upworthy.com/actsofgood and fill out the nomination form for a chance for you or someone you know to win. It takes less than ten minutes to help someone make an even bigger impact.

When people move in and refuse to move out, what do you do?


Squatters' rights laws are some of the most bizarrely misused legal realities we have, and something no one seems to have a good answer for. Most of us have heard stories of someone moving into a vacant home and just living there, without anyone's permission and without paying rent, and somehow this is a legal question mark until the courts sort it out.

According to The National Desk, squatters' rights are a carryover from British property law and were created to ensure that abandoned property could be used and to protect occupants from being kicked out without proper notice. It should go without saying that squatter law isn't meant to allow someone to just take over someone else's property, but sometimes that's exactly what happens.

It's what happend to Flash Shelton's mother when she put her house up for rent after her husband passed away. A woman contacted her with interest in the property, only she wanted to do repairs and look after the home instead of paying rent. Before anyone knew it, she had furniture delivered (which she later said was accidental) and set up camp, despite Shelton's mom not agreeing to the arrangement.


But since the woman had expressed her intention and already moved in, the matter was out of police hands, as Shelton found out when he tried to contact the local sheriff.

“They said, ‘I’m sorry but we can’t enter the house, and it looks like they’re living there, so you need to go through the courts',” he shared in a YouTube video.

Shelton rightfully didn't want the expense of a court battle, so he took matters into his own hands—not with violence, but with logic. He had his mom lease the home to him, and then told the squatter that she had to move everything out because he was moving things in.

“If they can take a house, I can take a house," he said.

He was calm and clear about her having to get everything out within the day or he would have people come and take it, and thankfully, she didn't put up a big fight.

That experience made him realize how squatter law can be abused, but that there's a faster system for removing a squatter than to go through the court system. If a squatter can move in and force a homeowner to take them to court to prove they are living there illegally, then he could simply move in alongside the squatter, putting the squatter in the position of having to take the homeowner to court instead.

"The legal process is so slow, and at some point when they're in there, you're going to feel like they have more rights than you do and that's how you're going to be treated. So even though you it's your house and you're paying the mortgage or whatever, at some point squatters feel like they have more rights than you, so they don't have an incentive to leave until a judge tells them to, until they're actually ordered to, and that could take months."

After successfully removing the squatters in his mother's house, Shelton has been tackling similar squatter situations for other homeowners in California, earning him the nickname "The Squatter Hunter."

"All I'm doing is becoming a squatter and flipping this process on them," Shelton told CBS News. "I figured if they could take a house, I could take a house."

According to CBS, he's successfully removed a dozen squatters in the past year. ""I'm not going in and I'm not hurting anyone," he said. "I'm not kicking them out, I'm not throwing them out." He's literally just moving in himself, setting up cameras, and then creating small annoyances until the squatters get fed up enough to move out.

California isn't the only state that has seen issues with squatters. There are squatter stories from all over the U.S. of people moving into a property and refusing to leave without a court order, tying owners up in lengthy, expensive legal battles.

Shelton even has a Change.org petition to try to get squatter laws changed to "make squatting in residential maintained homes criminal." Making squatting illegal "will shift the burden of proof onto the squatter and make the crime punishable with restitution an option for damages," the the petition states.

Watch Shelton share his personal story:

This article originally appeared on 4.5.24

All GIFs and images via Exposure Labs.




Photographer James Balog and his crew were hanging out near a glacier when their camera captured something extraordinary.

They were in Greenland, gathering footage from the time-lapse they'd positioned all around the Arctic Circle for the last several years.


They were also there to shoot scenes for a documentary. And while they were hoping to capture some cool moments on camera, no one expected a huge chunk of a glacier to snap clean off and slide into the ocean right in front of their eyes.


science, calving, glaciers

A glacier falls into the sea.

assets.rebelmouse.io

ocean swells, sea level, erosion, going green

Massive swells created by large chunks of glacier falling away.

assets.rebelmouse.io

It was the largest such event ever filmed.

For nearly an hour and 15 minutes, Balog and his crew stood by and watched as a piece of ice the size of lower Manhattan — but with ice-equivalent buildings that were two to three times taller than that — simply melted away.

geological catastrophe, earth, glacier melt

A representation demonstrating the massive size of ice that broke off into the sea.

assets.rebelmouse.io

As far as anyone knows, this was an unprecedented geological catastrophe and they caught the entire thing on tape. It won't be the last time something like this happens either.

But once upon a time, Balog was openly skeptical about that "global warming" thing.

Balog had a reputation since the early 1980s as a conservationist and environmental photographer. And for nearly 20 years, he'd scoffed at the climate change heralds shouting, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

"I didn't think that humans were capable of changing the basic physics and chemistry of this entire, huge planet. It didn't seem probable, it didn't seem possible," he explained in the 2012 documentary film "Chasing Ice."

There was too much margin of error in the computer simulations, too many other pressing problems to address about our beautiful planet. As far as he was concerned, these melodramatic doomsayers were distracting from the real issues.

That was then.

Greenland, Antarctica, glacier calving

The glacier ice continues to erode away.

assets.rebelmouse.io

In fact, it wasn't until 2005 that Balog became a believer.

He was sent on a photo expedition of the Arctic by National Geographic, and that first northern trip was more than enough to see the damage for himself.

"It was about actual tangible physical evidence that was preserved in the ice cores of Greenland and Antarctica," he said in a 2012 interview with ThinkProgress. "That was really the smoking gun showing how far outside normal, natural variation the world has become. And that's when I started to really get the message that this was something consequential and serious and needed to be dealt with."

Some of that evidence may have been the fact that more Arctic landmass has melted away in the last 20 years than the previous 10,000 years.

Watch the video of the event of the glacier calving below:

This article originally appeared on 11.04.15

IMDB,Condé Nast/Wikipedia

The pop star said that this could help create safer environments for young performers.

Even in the healthiest of work environments, child actors are thrust into adult life before they’ve really had a chance to grow up. They don’t have the coping mechanisms for dealing with the stresses of fame, nor do they have the skills or authority to advocate for themselves when they are being abused.

The obvious answer to this problem is to provide protections for these kids. But let’s face it: exactly how to go about creating these protections isn’t so obvious. Hollywood is only just beginning to address these long-seated issues.

However, Ariana Grande, certainly no stranger to the highs and lows of finding fame at a young age, recently suggested that one solution would be “mandatory therapy” for younger actors.

Grande, who got her big break on the Nickelodeon show “Victorious” when she was just 14, reflected on her time on the network while guest appearing on Penn Badgley’s Podcrushed podcast.

This interview comes not too long after the shocking revelations made in the docuseries “Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV,” where former Nickelodeon stars accused former producer Dan Schnieder of a litany of abuses, including but not limited to sexual harassment and racism.

Grande did not appear on the docuseries, footage from “Victorious” was often used as an example of inappropriate content for children.

@discoveryplusuk It’s got everyone talking. #QuietOnSet #TheDarkSideOfKidsTV#nickelodeon #danschneider #90skids #arianagrande #amandabynes ♬ original sound - discoveryplusuk

"I think that’s something that we were convinced was the cool thing about us,” she reflected during the podcast. “That we pushed the envelope with our humor and innuendos. We were told — and convinced as well — that it was the cool differentiation. It all just happened so quickly and now looking back on some of the clips I’m like, ‘Thats… Damn, really?’”After “reprocessing” a lot of her experience around that time, she came to the conclusion that there should be “mandatory therapy” 2-3 times a week included in a young actors contract.

“There should be an element that is mandatory of therapy, a professional person to unpack what this experience of your life changing so drastically does to you at a young age,” she said, adding that this should probably be used for celebrities of all ages.

In addition, she thinks that “parents [should be] allowed to be wherever they want to be.”

"A lot of people don’t have the support that they need to get through performing at that level at such a young age. But also, dealing with some of the things that the survivors who have come forward [have]... There’s not a word for how devastating that is to hear about. So, I think the environment just needs to be made a lot safer all around.”

You can watch the podcast episode in full below:

Image by Stacey Kennedy from Pixabay

Graduation is a big milestone that can come with grief for some communities.

It's been nearly 12 years since a young man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, with an AR-15. rifle and two handguns and opened fire, killing 20 first graders and six faculty members before turning the gun on himself.

Survivors of the Sandy Hook shooting—kids who watched their friends and teachers being murdered in their classrooms—are now graduating from high school, and they have complicated feelings about the milestone and the 20 classmates who aren't joining them.

A private graduation ceremony was held at Newtown High School on June 12, 2024, with 335 graduates including around 60 Sandy Hook survivors. Some of them shared their thoughts with journalists in the days leading up to graduation.


“I think we’re all super excited for the day,” Lilly Wasilnak, 17, shared with the AP. "But I think we can’t forget ... that there is a whole chunk of our class missing. 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.”

"The shooter actually came into my classroom," Emma Ehrens, 17, told CBS News. "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."

According to the AP, Ehrens was one of 11 kids who survived from Classroom 10. She was able to escape with a group of students when the shooter paused to reload his gun. Five students and both teachers in the room were killed.

“I am definitely going be feeling a lot of mixed emotions,” Ehrens said. “I’m super excited to be, like, done with high school and moving on to the next chapter of my life. But I’m also so ... mournful, I guess, to have to be walking across that stage alone. … I like to think that they’ll be there with us and walking across that stage with us.”

The survivors who are graduating this year are dealing with both the exciting what ifs of their futures and the tragic what ifs of their past as they remember their slain classmates.

"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 told CBS News.

"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 added.

“As much as we’ve tried to have that normal, like, childhood and normal high school experience, it wasn’t totally normal,” Grace Fischer, 18, told CBS. “But even though we are missing ... such a big chunk of our class, like Lilly said, we are still graduating. ... We want to be those regular teenagers who walk across the stage that day and feel that, like, celebratory feeling in ourselves, knowing that we’ve come this far.”

That desire for normalcy conflicting with their not normal childhood is part of what makes graduation such a bittersweet experience for these young people. They had so much taken from them at such a young age, and that trauma doesn't just disappear. Some of the students expressed that they are looking forward to moving away from Newtown and building a life in which the school shooting doesn't define them.

Sandy Hook was unique in that the victims were so young and there were so many of them, but the survivors aren't alone in their experience. In the years since the Sandy Hook massacre, the U.S. has seen dozens more school shootings, and there are thousands of school shooting survivors dealing with related traumas. Many of those survivors have become outspoken anti-gun-violence advocates, pressuring officials to enact stronger laws to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

But for now, the Sandy Hook graduates are celebrating a big life milestone, just as they—and their 20 missing classmates—should be.

Watch six of the Sandy Hook survivors share their stories on Good Morning America: