Newtown Graduates Remember

Jun 12, 2024 | Donor News, General, Scarlett's Blog

For the students who survived the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting as first graders in 2012, Wednesday marks the end of high school. More than 11 years after a gunman tore through their first-grade classrooms, the new graduates have grappled with what this milestone means: A finish line they are crossing that their classmates never will. They will never know what their classmates would have become, or how their lives would have intersected in ways big and small.

Emma Ehrens often thinks of Jesse Lewis, her first-grade classmate who was killed that day. When Ehrens’ class was confronted by the gunman, his gun momentarily jammed. At that moment, Lewis — a fan of all things military and toy soldiers — recognized the jam and the time it bought them, and he told Ehrens to run. She listened, as did others, and they survived.

Lewis was shot shortly after. He is remembered as a hero.

Lewis’ mom, Scarlett Lewis, said she thinks her son would be in the military now.

“I always have thought, even when he was alive, that he would join the military,” she said. “I believe he would have risen to the highest rank because even at 6 years old, he had this incredible amount of courage that is now inspiring people around the world to stand up and do the right thing,” she said.

Lewis runs the Choose Love Movement, a non-profit that follows a directive Jesse left on a kitchen chalkboard before he left for school the morning he was killed, the words “nurturing, healing, love,” sprawled in his writing.

It’s the message she shares in countless classrooms around the globe — that children and adults need to embrace both good and bad experiences to learn, heal, love and nurture each other. And it is a poignant piece of advice for this year’s graduates.

“Every difficulty that you face enables you to have what you need for the next,” Lewis said. “We are created to grow through challenges, roadblocks, to move through fear and use it to live our best lives, not in spite of what happens to us, but because of it.”

When tragedy strikes, she said, so does remarkable change.

“When there’s so much pain, there’s so much desperation, that’s when we kind of wrangle the courage for a shift, and the shift is now.”

For Newtown High School graduates, 20 missing chairs mark end of one chapter and beginning of next