Michigan State University student with painful memories of Sandy Hook massacre speaks out

'Being scared is no longer an option,' Jaqueline Matthews said.

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Thursday, February 16, 2023
MSU student with painful memories of Sandy Hook massacre speaks out
A Michigan State University student who was on campus during Monday's deadly shooting also has painful memories of the Sandy Hook massacre. Sandra Bookman has the story.

NEW YORK -- A Michigan State University student who was on campus during Monday's deadly mass shooting also has painful personal memories of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

Newtown, Connecticut native Jaqueline Matthews was in the sixth grade on Dec. 14, 2012, when gunfire erupted at nearby Sandy Hook in an attack that left 26 dead, including several young children.

At the time, she crouched for so long while hiding at her intermediate school that her back is permanently injured.

Now a decade later, the 21-year-old international law major and member of the rowing team was watching chaos outside her campus window. After a three-hour-long manhunt, police found the suspect -- identified as 43-year-old Anthony McRae -- dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound off campus. The shootings at two separate on-campus locations left three students dead and five in critical condition as of Tuesday, officials said.

"I don't ever think you ever get over something so traumatic or so tragic, even if it's not in your community," she said. "I think things like this, people feel and it never really goes away."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the fact that Jaqueline Matthews was not a student at Sandy Hook Elementary school when a mass shooting occurred there in 2012. She attended a nearby intermediate school at the time.

Matthews said she was stunned to find herself here yet again.

"The fact that this is the second mass shooting that I have now lived through is incomprehensible," she said in a TikTok video that she recorded in the early morning hours, demanding legislative action. "We can no longer allow this to happen. We can no longer be complacent."

Our sister station WABC-TV spoke with Matthews about her experience:

Joe Torres speaks with Michigan State student Jacqueline Matthews, who was on campus during the shooting and who has painful memories of the Sandy Hook massacre.

Matthews said she almost never talks about what happened at Sandy Hook on that dark day, but after Monday, she couldn't stay silent.

"I never talk about that topic, but I felt the need to post that [TikTok] video. I was sitting with my roommate, and we were talking about how out of hand this is, and how it's not OK," she said. "Even the kids from Sandy Hook/Newtown, the kids from Stoneman Douglas, their lives don't stop when these things happen. The fact that the odds of me being in both of those places for two mass shootings, is unfortunately, not as unlikely as it [seems] ... I think that's why I felt the need to make the video to bring awareness to the fact that, enough is enough. It just needs to end."

"It's been put in my face too many times, to the point where being scared is no longer an option," Matthews said.

In fact, the U.S. has seen a spike in mass shooting attacks in recent years. In 2023, there have been more mass shootings than days, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Mass shootings are defined as an incident in which four or more victims are shot or killed, according to the archive. Though mass shootings don't make up the majority of gun violence incidents in America, their impact on communities and victims is evident.

The Associated Press and ABC News contributed to this report.