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Democracy

Former Sandy Hook student shares heartbreaking story after surviving second school shooting

"The fact that this is the second mass shooting I have now lived through is incomprehensible."

Jackie Matthews and Emma Riddle share that the MSU shooting was their second school shooting experience.

Experiencing the trauma of one school shooting is one too many. Living through two is utterly incomprehensible.

Jackie Matthews was in the sixth grade in Newtown, Connecticut, when a 20-year-old assailant shot and killed 26 students and faculty members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. As the school district went into lockdown during the chaos, Matthews crouched in place with her classmates for so long that she still experiences back problems from it.

Now, as a senior at Michigan State University, Matthews has survived her second mass shooting at school. On the night of February 13, a 43-year-old gunman shot eight students on the MSU campus, killing three of them, before turning the gun on himself. Matthews posted a video to TikTok while sheltering in place in the middle of the night across the street from where some of the shootings took place.

"I am 21 years old and this is the second mass shooting I have now lived through," she shared. "Ten years and two months ago I survived the Sandy Hook shooting…I was hunched in the corner with my classmates for so long that I got a PTSD fracture in my L4 and L5 in my right lower back. I now have a full-blown PTSD fracture that flares up any time I'm in a stressful situation."

"The fact this is now the second shooting I have lived through is incomprehensible," she continued. "We can no longer just provide love and prayers. It needs to be legislation, it needs to be action. It's not OK. We can no longer allow this to happen."

@jmattttt

Enough is Enough. #spartanstrong #sandyhookstrong I hope you stand with me in putting an end to this horrific epidemic of gun violence.

Matthews wasn't the only MSU student who experienced their second school shooting on February 13. At least two students who had survived the Oxford High School shooting in Michigan in 2021 were also on campus that night.

Emma Riddle wrote on Twitter, "14 months ago I had to evacuate from Oxford High Schol [sic] when a fifteen year old opened fire and killed four of my classmates and injured seven more. Tonight, I am sitting under my desk at Michigan State Univeristy [sic], once again texting everyone 'I love you.'"

"When will this end?" she asked.

Riddle's father shared her tweet, writing, "This is my daughter Emma. Her safety and sense of peace has been ripped away twice in 14 months because America continues to choose guns over kids."

Another Oxford High School survivor was also on campus for the MSU shooting. Andrea Ferguson shared that her Oxford graduate daughter had just started attending MSU this semester.

“I never expected in my lifetime to have to experience two school shootings,” Ferguson told Local News 4 in Detroit as she described hearing from her daughter about the active shooter.

“She had just ended class and hopped on the bus and went across campus and called me, and while we were on the phone, all of the sudden she started getting text messages. It was like reliving Oxford all over again.”

The fact that multiple young people are experiencing multiple school shootings is a sobering reminder that the people who are killed or physically wounded are not the only victims of America's unique gun violence problem. Countless kids have been traumatized by mass shootings, either witnessing them firsthand or being close enough to them that their sense of safety has been forever affected.

We simply can't continue to wish and pray our mass shooting problem away away. Hopefully, it won't take another generation of survivors for us to gather the political will to finally take meaningful action.

On Monday, April 16, parents of two students who died during the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting sued conspiracy theorist and media personality Alex Jones.

Jones, who runs the far-right conspiracy site Infowars.com, is no stranger to lawsuits. To say he plays fast and loose with facts would be an understatement, as he's pushed a number of absurd conspiracy theories over the years, including the idea that the government can control the weather and summon tornadoes at will, that Hillary Clinton has personally murdered people and runs a child sex trafficking operation out of a Washington, D.C.-area pizza place, and of course, his belief that the government is putting chemicals in our water supply that is making frogs gay.

None of his ridiculous conspiracy theories have had as lasting and as painful an effect as what he did to the Sandy Hook parents. More than five years after the tragedy, Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son died in the shooting, and Veronique De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner, whose 5-year-old son also died, filed suit against Jones, Infowars, and a company called Free Speech Systems LLC.

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"The paralysis you feel right now — the impotent helplessness that washes over you as news of another mass slaughter scrolls across the television screen — isn’t real," wrote Sen. Chris Murphy.

"It's a fiction created and methodically cultivated by the gun lobby, designed to assure that no laws are passed to make America safer, because those laws would cut into their profits," the Connecticut Democrat continued.

As many other politicians followed the standard routine of blaming gun violence on mental illness and offering "thoughts and prayers" in the wake of yet another mass shooting — this one in a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church — Murphy issued a statement urging immediate and tangible action.

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Nelba Márquez-Greene lost her daughter nearly five years ago.

Nelba Márquez-Greene knows what it's like to lose a loved one in a mass shooting. On Dec. 14, 2012, her 6-year-old daughter Ana Márquez-Greene was shot and killed during the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

Ever since, Márquez-Greene and her husband, Jimmy Greene, have been tireless advocates for gun safety. They've called on Congress to take action to mitigate future mass shootings — only to have their concerns brushed off. Time and again, they've watched Congress stand idly by each time a mass shooting took place.

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