Meet the Classmates that Jesse Lewis Saved

Jun 14, 2024 | Donor News, General

People Magazine featured some of the survivors of Sandy Hook Elementary School. This is an excerpt.

In recent weeks, PEOPLE spoke with 10 of the student survivors of the mass shooting who are either graduating on Wednesday or graduated last year.

Some of these teenagers — who heard and watched their classmates being killed and then had to flee the threat of violence themselves — want to go on to become therapists, after their years of therapy as they coped with trauma; or they would like to be politicians and attorneys, having become involved with the anti-gun violence Jr. Newtown Action Alliance.

“This lives with us,” says 17-year-old Emma Ehrens, who grappled with intense survivor’s guilt in her childhood and plans to work in civil rights. “For the people that think that it just disappears, it doesn’t. It’s going to be with us until we die.”

In room 10 of Sandy Hook Elementary, Emma Ehrens and her class were sitting together reading a book. The banging noises heard in the hallways didn’t alarm the group as there was construction happening at the time. “We didn’t think much of it until a guy walked into my classroom with a gun,” Ehrens says.

While most of Ehrens’ memories of the day come from the statements she gave to the police, what she recounted 12 years ago was clear: “He just started shooting all of my friends and classmates,” Ehrens tells PEOPLE. “He shot my teacher [Victoria Soto] and then he was going to shoot me, but [Jesse Lewis] who did not make it screamed at us that either his gun was jammed or he needed to reload, and that we needed to get out of there and run. So that’s what five of us did. I bumped into him on the way out.”

With only one month off of school and “not really” being given work up until third grade, Ehrens says growing up was “very hard.”

“You never really got the option to have a normal childhood,” the 17-year-old says. “I kind of needed one person to just see me as a kid and not someone who was through a very traumatic event.”

Ehrens — who “has struggled really badly with survivors’ guilt” — spends a lot of time at the memorial built for her classmates near where their elementary school once stood. “If I have nothing to do, if I’m feeling down or anything, I’ll just walk down to the memorial and see all my friends,” she says. “Maybe, this sounds lame, talk to them, I guess. But not always.”

Sandy Hook Survivors, Now 17 and 18, Reflect on Trauma While Growing Up and Their ‘Happy-Sad’ Graduation (Exclusive) Read the full story.