September 30, 2013

School shooting still haunts young lives

The students suffer nightmares, and sounds reminding them of the attack stir panic, parents say.


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State police lead a line of children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., after a shooting at the school last Dec. 14. Hundreds of schoolchildren survived, but the horrors have been especially difficult to overcome for some of the 6- and 7-year-olds who witnessed the bloodbath.

Shannon Hicks/Newtown Bee/2012 Associated Press file

"It's his ability to be a superhero and in control," Posey said. "People don't hurt Batman."

Rojas said his son, who is in therapy, has had to cope with vivid nightmares. His son does not talk much about the shooting, but he sometimes asks why. The family tries to be honest, telling him they don't know why. He also asks about his friends who were killed.

"We talk about heaven," Rojas said. "He knows they're there."


The families of the 12 surviving children who witnessed the shootings each received $20,000 from the largest Newtown charity fund. The families of the 26 people who were killed each received $281,000.

In a letter to the foundation in charge of distributing the donations, Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra said $20,000 is not nearly adequate for the families of the survivors, who are likely to need counseling for years.

"Twenty thousand dollars will be insufficient to address the wide range of mental health needs for these youngsters and their siblings and parents for years into the future," Llodra wrote in the Aug. 7 letter urging the foundation to set aside money for the families' future needs. "Please be aware also that many of these families suffered significant loss of income and loss of opportunity during the months immediately after December 14."


On the day of the massacre, Posey's children, including two at Sandy Hook, were attending their final day of school in Newtown before moving to Colorado a day later. In Colorado, Posey and his wife have joined survivors of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting to form a foundation to help schools prepare emergency plans and help survivors of tragedies to recover. He is also working with parents of Newtown victims on an effort to improve school safety.

With time, Posey said, his son has shown signs of recovery.

For a period after the shooting, the boy was fearful and worried about everyone's safety, insisting they go look for his mother when she left the house. But he now understands when his mother is gone. He's playing sports again. A long vacation to the Grand Canyon this summer appeared to help the whole family.

Posey said his son also talks about becoming a detective who helps children.

Rojas said his son was excited to return to school this fall and see his friends, but also apprehensive. Overall, he said, his son is "OK." He wishes someone could tell him everything will be fine in a few years, but he knows it will be a long road for his son and the other survivors.

"Not a day goes by that we're not thankful that we do have our son," Rojas said. "I think about our friends and neighbors who don't have that blessing anymore. Not a day goes by that I don't think about those 20 kids."


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