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June 14, 2013

I Survived: A Marie Claire Exclusive

As the gun control debate rages on, Marie Claire gathered seven women who lived through Newtown, Aurora, and other mass shootings. In this exclusive, they reveal the truth about life after unthinkable trauma—and explain how they're taking action to prevent more tragedies. Read our candid interview with former Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords about her fight for gun reform—and her own recovery.

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Photo Credit: Peter Hapak

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ABBEY CLEMENTS, 44

Newtown, Connecticut
December 14, 2012

Clements, a teacher, was preparing to start an art project with her second-grade class when Adam Lanza stormed Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 children and six adults.

I was lucky: The gunman turned left instead of right, where my classroom was. When I first heard gunshots, I pulled all 19 kids into the coat area and started singing Christmas songs to shield them from the sounds. But it was impossible. Between the gunfire, we heard muffled cries. One little girl hugged my leg, saying, "I want my mommy" over and over.

Then I heard police sirens and told the kids, "The good guys are coming!" The scariest part was leaving that room. I had my right arm around one little girl and several kids held on to my left side. Everyone ran to the firehouse nearby. There, I started hearing blips of horror, names of people possibly shot. I put my hands over my ears to shut it out. Hysterical parents were arriving looking for their kids. When I left, many were still waiting. That's when this new phase of my life began. First there were the wakes. Now there's the recovery effort. Teachers are a part of that. I have to be strong for my kids. But I have only just begun to deal with the enormity of the loss. My guilt is deep; I think about all the people who were killed or wounded.

Our town has adopted a new mantra since terror rained down on it: Newtown chooses love. But we can't just say it—we have to do it. There is a complacency in this country. People just move on to the next tragedy. But I don't want it to stop there. I've made phone calls and written letters to legislators, and gone to several meetings to support better gun control laws. It is an important piece of moving forward. It pulls me out of the trauma and toward something bigger. @newtownaction


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