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Surviving Newtown: Report Highlights Struggles With PTSD
byKaitlin StanfordOct 01, 2013
This December 14 will mark one year since Adam Lanza forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School, gunning down 20 innocent children and six adults. But for many of the children who survived the massacre, it may as well have been just yesterday.
So strong are the memories of that day—of gunshots being heard over the loudspeaker and children being shot dead right in front of their friends—that many of the survivors still suffer deep emotional scars that will sadly be with them for years to come.
In a heartbreaking report, the Associated Press explores just how far-reaching the fallout has been for the dozen or so children who witnessed the shooting firsthand. It also touches on how their families are coping, as their parents are left with heavy hearts and mounting medical bills as a result of all the counseling their kids now need.
"The worst part is the helplessness," Hugo Rojas told the AP. Rojas's young son witnessed the shooting in one of his classrooms. "You want to take that pain away," he said. "You want to be able to take those nightmares away, but you can't."
Sometimes random sounds bring it back; a car alarm, a clap of the hands. Other times it's as harmless as an announcement over the grocery store intercom.
"When the intercom goes off, that's when something bad is about to happen,'" one young survivor told his dad, David Posey, one day.
That same young boy was one of few who miraculously escaped the shooting after Lanza burst into his classroom with his mother's rifle. While he pointed the gun straight at Posey's young son, Lanza for some reason chose to spare him.
"He said he kind of just stared down the kids," Posey said of his son's memories. "My personal belief is that at that particular time he hadn't crossed the threshold of shooting a child."
Sadly, it was only moments later that he did.
Posey and Rojas told the AP that for their sons and for most of the survivors, they deal with the lasting psychological impacts of that day constantly, and have seen significant changes in their child's behavior as a result.
Posey's once happy-go-lucky boy has since started to rebel, refusing to do even mundane everyday tasks like brushing his teeth. He's also taken to donning the crime-fighting costumes of his comic-book heroes. ("It's his ability to be a superhero and in control," Posey said. "People don't hurt Batman.") On a brighter note, though, his father says the boy has shown some signs of improvement and even dreams of being a detective one day—so he can help children.
In the Rojas home, there are intense, traumatic nightmares to fend off nightly. While his son won't open up much about the shooting, he does often ask his parents why it all had to happen; to which, there is hardly an answer to suffice.
One of the other most burdening effects of the Sandy Hook shooting is of course all the bills that have piled up in the wake of the tragedy. While the families of the 26 victims each received $281,000 from the Newtown Charity Fund, the families of the survivors—in particular the 12 children who witnessed the most traumatic events firsthand—received just $20,000. A welcome sum, but hardly enough to combat their steeping therapy bills, lost work pay and more.
"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," Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra wrote in a letter to the foundation.
You can read the AP's full report here; though be forewarned, it's a tough one to read without a box of tissues.