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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.


Neil Heslin testified before congress in February 2013. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

His lies have turned these parents' lives into a living hell.

With an intense fanbase conditioned to not believe anything the mainstream media says, Jones should know better than to share baseless and dubious accusations about these families, lumping them into bizarre conspiracy theories.

Jones' YouTube page is riddled with videos related to the shooting, many pushing the idea that the whole thing was a "false flag" (in this case, the argument seems to be that the shooting was ordered and carried out by members of the government or some other shadowy organization to pressure Congress into taking away everyone's guns ... or something like that), that the entire thing was a hoax where no one died, that victims or their families were "crisis actors," and so on. A lot of this is pushed out there under the guise of "just asking questions" or some larger quest for truth that's being hidden.

Days after the shooting, community members grieve at a makeshift memorial for the Sandy Hook victims. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

Here's just a small sampling of some of the videos still live on his page: Is Connecticut Shooting a False Flag?, Connecticut School Massacre Looks Like False Flag Says Witnesses, Sandy Hook, False Narratives Vs. The Reality, Sandy Hook: The Lies Keep Growing, New Sandy Hook Questions Arise from FOIA Hearing, Sandy Hook Vampires Exposed, Were Crisis Actors Used in Sandy Hook Massacre?, Creepy Illuminati Message in Batman Movie Hints at Sandy Hook School, Crisis Actors Used at Sandy Hook! Special Report, Dr. Steve Pieczenik: Sandy Hook Was a Total False Flag!, Retired FBI Agent Investigates Sandy Hook: Mega Massive Cover Up, Revealed: Sandy Hook Truth Exposed, Sandy Hook "Officials" Caught In Coverup And Running Scared, Bombshell: Sandy Hook Massacre Was a DHS Illusion Says School Safety Expert, and Why People Think Sandy Hook Is a Hoax.

A headline on Jones' website pushing a false claim about an FBI report. Image from Infowars.

In 2016, one fan of Jones' Sandy Hook commentary was arrested for sending death threats to Pozner. The woman, Lucy Richards, allegedly sent Pozner messages like "you gonna die, death is coming to you real soon" and "LOOK BEHIND YOU IT IS DEATH."

These families just want to be left alone, but Jones and other conspiracy theorists won't let up.

Pozner founded the Sandy Hook Honor Network in hopes of fighting back against the conspiracies about his son and the others gunned down. Still, the attacks continue from Jones and others. The internet makes spreading misinformation easier than ever, and conspiracy theorists like Jones have thrived as a result.

This lawsuit is about more than just Sandy Hook. This lawsuit is about fighting back against conspiracy theories and no longer allowing people to profit off disinformation. How many more people need to be tormented by Jones and others before we say enough?

"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.


Murphy speaks out following the Pulse night club shooting in 2016. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The reaction to this most recent shooting in Texas, which killed at least 26 churchgoers and injured 20 others, has become disturbingly routine.

The attack, reportedly carried out by 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, came less than five weeks after the Las Vegas massacre (58 dead), 16 months after the Pulse night club shooting in Orlando (49 dead), and five years after the Sandy Hook shooting (27 dead). CNN's Brian Stelter called the Texas shooting "unfathomable," but a look at the regularity with which these massacres happen suggests otherwise.

Murphy, who was the congressman for the city of Newtown, Connecticut, during the Sandy Hook shooting, is urging us to take a look at these horrors for what they are: a part of American life that we can put an end to if we want to.

"None of this is inevitable," Murphy wrote. "I know this because no other country endures this pace of mass carnage like America. It is uniquely and tragically American. As long as our nation chooses to flood the country with dangerous weapons and consciously let those weapons fall into the hands of dangerous people, these killings will not abate."

The First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, following a shooting on Nov. 5, 2017. Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images.

Too many members of Congress are bought and paid for by the gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association. Murphy wants to change that.

In recent years, the NRA has gotten increasingly extremist in its positions and messaging. They count on people being too shocked to act, and they count on that to defer any sort of legislative solution to some undefined future time when it's no longer "disrespectful" to the victims to want to do something that will prevent there being future victims.

Murphy is calling on his colleagues to reconsider whether it's worth it to pander to the gun lobby at the cost of American lives. If they can't or won't do that — which you can find out by contacting your representative and senators to find out where they stand on the issue — it's up to everyday citizens to vote them out of office.

"The terrifying fact is that no one is safe so long as Congress chooses to do absolutely nothing in the face of this epidemic," Murphy concluded. "The time is now for Congress to shed its cowardly cover and do something."

More

A Sandy Hook mom's emotional response to Las Vegas puts mass shootings in context.

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.


Jimmy Greene and Nelba Márquez-Greene at a news conference in 2013. Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images.

Waking up to news of the Las Vegas shooting that left at least 50 dead and hundreds injured, Márquez-Greene shared on Twitter what the families of the victims are going through.

Nearing the fifth anniversary of her daughter's murder, Márquez-Greene gave her followers a glimpse into what the worst day of her life was like. There is nothing that prepares you to lose a loved one in such a senseless (yet preventable) act of brutality. Márquez-Greene's words help put the entire ordeal in context for the rest of us.

"I don't know what to say besides this is on every congressperson who said in '13: There is simply nothing we could do," she tweeted. "You don’t recover from this — as a mother, brother, father. You manage. But there is no recovery. I am heartbroken."

"Today you got 50+ new reasons I take a knee. My heart, my prayers, my ACTIONS are with the victim families."

She slammed Congress for "the level of trauma" citizens are forced to endure in the wake of a mass shooting, when legislators fail to enact laws that would protect citizens from gun violence.

"As a mom who had to bury a child — I could care less about perp color. But how come we never talk about angry White men w/guns?" she chided. "How come we only want to talk when it fits our own narrative?"

"Help mothers keep children safe from gunviolence," she pleaded, calling out people who allow the shooter's skin color or religious beliefs to be the determining factor in whether or not they decide to take action — as well as those who prioritize "fake acts of patriotism over people, pain & real acts of courage."

"I just don't want any more moms to live like I do," she said, calling attention to the kind of gun violence we don't talk nearly enough about: the everyday shooting deaths that happen all around the country.

"I know so many mothers navigating this world of grief and trauma blindly because their kids died in urban centers & there is no sympathy," she tweeted. "Gun violence and grief hurt in EVERY zip code. In every color. Grieving mothers need your help."

Perhaps the most powerful message, however, was the final tweet of the group, which showed 6-year-old Ana, full of life, cheerfully singing along at a piano, along with a message for Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama: "As a final thought & reminder to @MooreSenate & congress, this is the little girl u said I should’ve prayed 'harder' for."

Every time there's a mass shooting and Congress chooses not to act, they dishonor all the victims who have come before.

Senator Chris Murphy (Democrat-Connecticut) was a member of the House of Representatives when the Sandy Hook shooting occurred, representing Newtown. He's been one of the biggest proponents of gun safety measures in years' past, even once speaking for nearly 15 hours on the Senate floor to push for action.

Following the Las Vegas shooting, his office released a statement. It reads, in part:

"This must stop. It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren't public policy responses to this epidemic. There are, and the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference. It's time for Congress to get off its ass and do something."

For grieving parents like Márquez-Green, for victims like little Ana, and for all of us who deserve to live in a country free from fear of being gunned down in a mass shooting, let's hope they do.

Jimmy Greene and Nelba Márquez-Greene embrace after a news conference in 2013. Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images.