It’s just another morning in your small suburban town. You lazily crawl out of bed after hitting the snooze alarm once or twice before groggily making your way to the shower. A fresh start to a new day. Lather, rinse, repeat. You finish up in the shower, quickly towel yourself off, and then make your way into the kitchen. There you start cooking up some breakfast for yourself and your family, which may be nothing more than some hastily toasted pop-tarts, before you realize you’re going to be late for work if you don’t get going.
You rush the kids into the car where you promptly spill coffee on your freshly pressed white shirt. There’s no time to change, or else the kids’ll be late for school. You’ll have no choice but to stroll into the office confidently wearing your fresh coffee stain as a badge of honor. You made it through another morning, only to do it all over again tomorrow.
It was the same old routine. A routine that many of us probably go through day after day, and December 14, 2012 was no different, even for the residents of Newtown, Connecticut.
Parents kiss their children goodbye as faculty members swarm the hallways, assuring that the students are all quickly ushered into their assigned classrooms. Teachers sip their coffee outside of their classroom doors, sharing gossip on which staff member was screwing who and discussing the latest revelations on some television drama series.
The bell sputters out a devastating ring, alerting students and teachers alike that it’s time for the school day to begin. Pens and pencils are laid out on desks and the teacher takes her place at the chalkboard. All business as usual.
At 9:30am a disturbed local man attempts to enter Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. He had just killed his mother and his thirst for more blood is unquenchable. Since the Columbine massacre, schools have beefed up security and he finds that he is barred by the door locks. The locked doors are no matter and the man shoots through a window in order to gain entry into the building. Students are still seated at their desks and teachers remain standing up at their chalkboards as the man begins making his way through the school, later picking off teachers, support faculty and children indiscriminately.
After the initial shots are fired, a school custodian runs through the halls in an attempt to alert teachers of what was happening. The staff does what they can to keep the children calm and protect them from the carnage being unleashed upon the school, where 456 kindergarten through fourth grade students were currently enrolled.
The man, Adam Lanza, proceeds to enter into a classroom where a substitute teacher and her students are hiding in a bathroom. The teacher, as well as 14 of the students, are gunned down in cold blood. One girl, a sole survivor who played dead during the attack, later reportedly told her mother,“Mommy, I’m okay, but all my friends are dead.”
The shooter left the classroom and walks to a nearby first grade classroom. The class’ teacher, Victoria Soto, has hidden many of the children inside of a closet, as well as in a bathroom, while several more students are cowering under desks as she walks towards the door to lock it. Before Soto has a chance to make it to the door, Lanza bursts into the room. Five children, along with Soto. are fatally shot. Some of the students from Soto’s class begin to flee the school and take refuge in a nearby residence with a school bus driver.
By 9:40am Adam Lanza had murdered 20 children, six Sandy Hook Elementary faculty members and his own mother, before turning the gun on himself. Investigators are still unclear on what Lanza’s motives were or why he had chosen the elementary school as the location for his rampage. It was no longer just another day in Newtown, Connecticut.
The story doesn’t end there though, at least not for the surviving families of Sandy Hook Elementary victims. Immediately after the incident alternate theories began to fly around the internet, claiming that the shooting had been staged and that one bereaved family member — the sister of slain teacher Victoria Soto — was an actress paid to appear in press coverage of not only the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, but a number of different catastrophic shootings, including the recent Paris attacks.
Having lost her own sister in the worst school shooting the United States has ever seen, Carlee Soto now says she fears for her and her family’s safety due to “Truthers”, who have not only harassed her relentlessly through a variety of social media pages, but have posted her and her family’s home addresses and other personal information online.
December is always a difficult month for Soto and her family, who continues to grieve over the sister some believe never actually existed. December 5th of 2015, Jillian Soto — another sister of Victoria Soto — decided to enter a benefit race for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in order to preserve the memory of her sister. Also at the race that day was 32-year-old Matthew Mills, a Truther who decided to confront Soto. According to Mills, he simply approached Soto in order to ask her if a picture of her sitting on a rock had been photoshopped.
Soto’s family says that was not at all the case. Jillian Soto had been running in the race when Mills ran up behind her and began shouting hurtful and derogatory comments about Soto and her deceased sister. After the confrontation, the police were alerted and the man fled. He was apprehended a short while later and charged with trespassing, as well as breach of peace.
The Sotos aren’t the only family to be harassed by Sandy Hook Truthers. A quick Google search for “Sandy Hook Hoax” will bring up dozens of pages dedicated to “exposing the truth” on what happened that day in Newtown, Connecticut. Photos of dead children pepper the pages between anti-semitic commentary and different “false flag” theories on how the event was staged by the government in order to restrict gun ownership.
Parents of young victims have been accused of being paid shills, pretending to mourn fictional children, while heroic first responders and school staff have also been scrutinized, accused of playing their part in an elaborate script contrived by the Obama administration.
The grief of these families was not enough for those who hide under the guise of exposing the truth. Every catastrophic event, whether it happens in the United States or abroad, is somehow tied into the Sandy Hook “hoax.” A school principal, who perished in the Newtown shooting, was alleged to have been spotted during the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers, while Aurora theater shooter James Holmes’ father was also alleged to have been somehow linked to the Newton tragedy. Every new massacre leads to new Sandy Hook theories and unearths the grief of the surviving family of the victims, many of which were children.
In one day these families had seen more grief than many of us will feel in an entire lifetime. A day that started like any other day would turn these people’s lives upside down and have since been forced to live at the mercy of grown men and women with entirely too much time on their hands, and nothing better to do than to harass parents who have lost their children in the most incomprehensible way possible.
Freedom of speech protects the rights of these individuals to state their beliefs, regardless if any of us choose to agree or disagree with them. However, there is no conspiracy behind the fact that harassment and stalking is a crime and perpetrators will be, justifiably, punished. Those who run these sites need to realize that there could be very serious legal backlash for encouraging personal attacks against the families of victims. These people have a right to grieve. Let them be.