On December 14, 2012, a apache entered Sandy Hook Elementary and angry left, adjoin the capital appointment and first-grade clrooms; had he angry right, he about anon would accept encountered Sarah Clements’s mother teaching in her second-grade clroom. This adored her mother’s life, and the lives of her students, and the aing alarm angry both mother and babe into gun-violence-prevention activists.
That day, 20 accouchement and eight adults, including the ballista and his mother, were killed. I batten with Sarah, now a chief at Georgetown University, to apprentice about w she candy the soting, and w she has been reacting to the civic chat about adolescence activism and gun abandon afterwards Parkland. The afterward chat has been edited for breadth and clarity.
Steven Johnson: Can you airing me through the day of the soting?
Sarah Clements: I was a inferior in aerial scol, in my first-period cl, physics. Our arch came on the loudspeaker and said that we were activity into lockdown, and it wasn’t a drill. We accomplished that 30 account had ped, and maybe this wasn’t actually a drill. I saw that I had a argument from my dad that said there was a cutting at Sandy Hook.
The boondocks was aloof an complete mess. Bodies were aggravating to amount out if their kids were alive, so there were mobs of parents at every scol. We went me, and for the blow of that night, I ane we all aloof sat in my parents’ allowance and watched CNN to amount out w had been dead and w had lived. My mom was account what she went through, so that we knew. She always, alike from that aboriginal day, capital us to apperceive what happened to her. I ane her administration her adventure anon with us is article that afflicted me, and I got into activism. Of advance we charge to allotment our stories. Of advance bodies charge to apperceive what that was like.
Johnson: And what was her story?
Clements: She was a second-grade teacher. Aback she aboriginal heard the sts from the hallway, she anion it was folding chairs falling. She absolved into the alley to ysis it out, and the attendant actually was sprinting by. That’s aback she knew, aback it clicked with her. She anon bankrupt the door, and told her acceptance to adumbrate up adjoin the walls area their coats were hanging.
Somew the PA arrangement in Sandy Hook was addled on in the capital of. Everybody in the academy heard every distinct st. So my mom approved to apprehend her chic account books, and sing songs to try and block out the sound. Eventually it stopped, and there was beating on her door, and they said, “It’s the police, it’s the police!” They slid their brand beneath the doorway, and that’s aback she opened it.
Johnson: You mentioned w your animosity that day eventually angry into activism. How connected did that activity take?
Clements: I didn’t alpha accomplishing activism until about a ages later. I saw a Facebook accident for a advance on Washington for gun control. I had never done article like that. My dad and I went bottomward to D.C. with a aculation of maybe 100 bodies from Newtown, and there were about 6,000 bodies there. That was additionally the aboriginal time that I met added survivors from added instances of gun violence, and saw that this affair was far, far bigger than aloof Newtown.
Johnson: And you foed accurately on adolescence activism.
Clements: A lot of bodies had altered account of what healing looked like, and for me, it was demography action. But I acquainted this urgency: I was accepting complex in these gun-violence-prevention groups, and [thinking], why weren’t students’ cir actuality aerial up? Why weren’t they actuality centered as the bodies that are best affected, disproportionately, based on gun-violence ante about the country? That’s article I actomed actually aboriginal on, and advocated for. And that’s one aen why I’m aloof so appreciative of these Parkland students. I’m belden for this moment that we’re in in agreement of organizing. And I ane it’s activity to be a absolute about-face in w we allocution about guns.
Johnson: How accept you acquainted in the past, anniversary time account of aculation sotings would appear up?
Clements: Aback sotings happen, my better affect is aloof acrimony and acerbity that this keeps happening. A lot of bodies ask, “Do you go aback to that day?” I don’t ane I do, and my mom says that she doesn’t either, necessarily. How can addition ociation be adverse what my ancestors had to face, what my ociation had to face? That activity is so cutting and so suffocating, abnormally aback you’ve been angry for change for so long. The better aen I do this ignment is so that eventually, no family, no ociation has to face this abrrent tragedy of gun violence. And aback it keeps accident over and over again, it’s acutely difficult to ignment through that rage, and to ignment through that aation with the bearings that we’re in.
Johnson: And now feels different?
Clements: It does, it does. It’s article that I didn’t apprehend to see at this point in time. I ane one [reason] is that my bearing and Bearing Z see gun abandon as an affair that doesn’t angle alone, that intersects with a lot of added issues that are accident in our communities and our country.
People consistently say, “Nothing afflicted afterwards Sandy Hook.” And that angers me, because I actually don’t ane that this moment would be accident afterwards the change that happened afterwards Sandy Hook. I ane that there was a big ability shift, and a political shift—maybe not necessarily nationally, in agreement of policy. I ane afterwards Sandy Hook, we afflicted the country to accept a connected civic dialogue. We congenital new organizations. That bat of grroots organizers in every accompaniment and in every community, and allotment on these issues, and creating a administration activity for adolescent organizers—tse things actually did not abide afore Sandy Hook.
What did abide was [more] communities actuality afflicted calling for change, and abounding of tse were communities of blush that accept been afflicted by gun abandon disproportionately for years and years. What happened afterwards Sandy Hook is that we, I think, came calm and afflicted politicians to acknowledgment questions about guns. Small, simple things like that. And for bristles years, we’ve congenital that.
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