'There's a whole chunk of our class missing': Survivors of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre graduate high school and share harrowing memories of day 20 classmates were shot dead

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  • Newton High’s Class of 2024 includes 60 pupils who survived the shooting 
  • Six survivors have expressed the milestone feels bittersweet
  • Names of those killed were read aloud at the graduation in a touching tribute 

Students who survived the Sandy Hook shooting graduated high school on Wednesday without 20 of their classmates who were tragically killed 12 years ago, and shared harrowing memories of one of the deadliest school massacres in American history. 

Newton High School’s Class of 2024 includes around 60 pupils who were at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, when Adam Lanza shot dead 20 children between the ages of six and seven, as well as six members of staff. 

The shooting is the second deadliest school shooting in US history and the fourth worst mass shooting.  

While high school graduations are typically a joyous day for teenagers, the absence of the slain students made the occasion bittersweet. 

Ahead of their graduation, six former Sandy Hook students, Matt Holden, Emma Ehrens, Henry Terifay, Lily Wasilnak, Ella Seaver and Grace Fisher, spoke about their mixed emotions over the milestone as they remembered the peers they lost.   

Six former Sandy Hook students, Matt Holden, Emma Ehrens, Henry Terifay, Lily Wasilnak, Ella Seaver and Grace Fisher, spoke to ABC's GMA about their mixed emotions over their graduation as they remembered the peers they lost in the deadly 2012 school shooting

Six former Sandy Hook students, Matt Holden, Emma Ehrens, Henry Terifay, Lily Wasilnak, Ella Seaver and Grace Fisher, spoke to ABC’s GMA about their mixed emotions over their graduation as they remembered the peers they lost in the deadly 2012 school shooting

The teenagers lament how little has changed since the Sandy Hook shooting, and how the same tragic story keeps repeating itself in schools across America

The teenagers lament how little has changed since the Sandy Hook shooting, and how the same tragic story keeps repeating itself in schools across America

The teenagers look forward to their school prom and dinner dance, but a solemn shadow hangs over their celebrations as they remember the day of the shooting.

Lily told NBC news: ‘You wait for this day for your whole life since you’re in kindergarten. You just can’t wait to graduate. And it felt so far away for such a long time…but I think we can’t forget about [the fact] 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,’ she added. 

During their Wednesday graduation, the name of their late peers were read aloud in a moving tribute, which highlighted that they too should be receiving their diplomas on stage.  

‘We remember your 20 classmates who were tragically lost on Dec. 14, 2012, who will not walk across the stage tonight,’ Principal Kimberly Longobucco said.

A motive was never determined as to why Adam Lanza massacred of 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012

A motive was never determined as to why Adam Lanza massacred of 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012

Shattered tempered glass pieces cover chairs and seats at Sandy Hook Elementary school

Shattered tempered glass pieces cover chairs and seats at Sandy Hook Elementary school

People gather at the scene of that shooting on that fateful day in December 2012

People gather at the scene of that shooting on that fateful day in December 2012

Jackie Barden reacts with grief after learning that a gunman killed her son Daniel at Sandy Hook

Jackie Barden reacts with grief after learning that a gunman killed her son Daniel at Sandy Hook

Newtown High School class of 2024 graduates toss their caps into the air at the conclusion of their commencement ceremony in Newtown on Wednesday. 60 graduates were among those who survived the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012. The names of the 20 slain students were read aloud in a touching tribute

Newtown High School class of 2024 graduates toss their caps into the air at the conclusion of their commencement ceremony in Newtown on Wednesday. 60 graduates were among those who survived the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012. The names of the 20 slain students were read aloud in a touching tribute

The survivors were between the ages of seven and eight when a gunman opened fire on Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut

The survivors were between the ages of seven and eight when a gunman opened fire on Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut

‘We remember them for their bravery, their kindness and their spirit. Let us strive to honor them today and every day.’

The graduating class of 335 pinned green ribbons emblazoned with ‘Forever in our hearts’ on their gowns. 

The lives of Sandy Hook survivors have been indelibly marked by one of America’s deadliest shootings.  

One survivor, Grace, talked to ABC about how she remembers being read a story by her teacher before Lanza opened fire on the school. 

‘Before we went to hide into the cubbies, the loud speaker went on’, she told cameras. 

Emma Ehrens says she watched her classmates and teachers die on the day of the deadly mass school shooting

Emma Ehrens says she watched her classmates and teachers die on the day of the deadly mass school shooting

Ella Seaver was interviewed as a child after surviving the 2012 shooting 12 years ago

Ella Seaver was interviewed as a child after surviving the 2012 shooting 12 years ago

Matt, a former Sandy Hook studetnt who was present on the day of the school shooting, has said he feels hopeless regarding gun control laws in America

Matt, a former Sandy Hook studetnt who was present on the day of the school shooting, has said he feels hopeless regarding gun control laws in America

Henry Terifay told ABC's GMA: 'I really thought Sandy Hook would, you know, shock people and wake everybody up...But it just keeps happening over and over and over again.'

Henry Terifay told ABC’s GMA: ‘I really thought Sandy Hook would, you know, shock people and wake everybody up…But it just keeps happening over and over and over again.’

‘This was probably the most traumatizing part of the whole thing’, she said as she recalled the school principal telling the children to hide before they heard a ‘popping sound’. 

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Lily added that she realized they were in danger ‘because our teachers were super concerned with keeping their voices down’. 

‘It was definitely a weird situation,   between knowing something was wrong but not knowing how bad it was’.  

In a separate interview with NBC News, Emma spoke of the moment Lanza burst into her classroom at Sandy Hook. 

She said: ‘I had to watch all my friends and teachers get killed and I had to run for my life at six years old,’ she said, before adding that she has had to grow up with ‘the fear and the what-ifs of what could have happened if I stayed. Because I was going to be next’.

The teenagers lament how little has changed since the Sandy Hook shooting, and how the same tragic story keeps repeating itself in schools across America.

Sandy Hook survivors attended a rally against gun violence last Friday in Newtown

Sandy Hook survivors attended a rally against gun violence last Friday in Newtown

Emma Ehrens, center, a survivor of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting speaks as she stands with other survivors during a rally against gun violence last week

Emma Ehrens, center, a survivor of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting speaks as she stands with other survivors during a rally against gun violence last week

In fact, school shootings have spiraled, with more than 1,600 recorded nationwide since 2012, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database.

‘I really thought Sandy Hook would, you know, shock people and wake everybody up,’ Henry told ABC’s GMA. ‘But it just keeps happening over and over and over again.’

Matt added that the situation felt ‘hopeless’. 

‘The friends, family who were lost that day, the smiling faces that should be filling the seats in your classroom, the parents who should be able to watch their kids graduate, get married, the kids will never be able to hug their parents again. It’s never over,’ he said.

Lilly said she worries for her own future children.

‘As unfortunate as it is, it’s going to happen to someone else, and it’s going to keep happening to someone else until people like us have to make the change,’ she said.

‘We worry about one day when we’ll have kids, and I don’t want to send my kids to school in the way our world is.’