Hours after a man opened fire on Monday night at two locations at Michigan State University, killing at least three students and injuring at least five, a 21-year-old student at the school posted a TikTok video to share that this was not the first mass shooting she’d survived.
“Ten years and two months ago I survived the Sandy Hook shooting,” said Jackie Matthews, describing crouching in a corner with her classmates while a gunman fatally shot 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
“I am 21 years old,” Matthews said. “The fact that this is the second mass shooting that I have now lived through is incomprehensible.”
Matthews described the physical manifestation of the trauma left by surviving the Sandy Hook massacre, one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.
“I now have a full-blown PTSD fracture [in my lower back] that flares up any time I am in a stressful situation,” she said.
Time reported that a number of other students on campus were survivors of a 2021 shooting at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, Michigan. U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., who visited the campus, told the magazine that she had seen a number of students wearing shirts that read, “Oxford Strong,” which were given to them after the shooting.
“I’ll forever be Sandy Hook Strong,” said Matthews, “and I’ll forever be Spartan Strong.”
The Michigan State shooting followed the recent release of a study by gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety about survivors of gun violence.
Fifty-nine percent of U.S. adults now report that they or someone they know have experienced gun violence in their lifetime. More than 40% of those who have had personal experiences with gun violence say they have trauma as a result.
“The impact of gun violence extends beyond those who are wounded or killed,” said Everytown. “The families, communities, and anyone with a personal experience of gun violence in their lifetime are also survivors of gun violence.”
Matthews expressed solidarity with the families and friends of the three people who were killed Monday night at the school.
“But we can no longer just provide love and prayers,” she said. “There needs to be legislation. There needs to be action. It’s not okay. We can no longer allow this to happen. We cannot longer be complacent.”
After a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York last year, President Joe Biden signed the first major gun safety legislation passed by Congress in nearly three decades. The law incentivized states to pass “red flag laws” that would help law enforcement to take guns away from people deemed a threat to others or themselves, and expanded background checks on gun purchasers between the ages of 18 and 21.
The law did not include universal background checks, which have the support of more than 90% of Americans, or a ban on assault weapons.
“We’ve let down generations of children by letting this continue,” said progressive advocacy group Indivisible Michigan in response to Matthews’ video. “We must act NOW.”