Sarah Lerner: It's a multifaceted answer. I'll start with yearbook. On the day that it happened, after I got back up to my classroom, I remember sitting and thinking, not knowing at that point what was even going on yet. But thinking, how am I going to cover whatever is happening that has us on lockdown? And then of course, as the news unfolded and we found out what had happened, I knew that it was something that we had to cover, not as sensational journalism, but as responsible reporting because it's our story.
This happened to us and it needs to be covered in the book. I met with my editors the Saturday after. We had a loose plan of what we wanted to do. At that point we didn't know how long we would be out of school, what would be going on during that unknown amount of time, what would happen when we got back.
We had just a very loose plan. Once we came back to school, we decided that we were going to do a profile for each of the victims, and we wanted to cover all of the things that had happened during the two weeks that we were off and things that happened when we came back to school.
In the yearbook world, we’re a spring delivery book. We're really done with our coverage in March. When the fire alarm went off, I had a spread up and I was returning it to go to print. And when we came back, we added 18 pages for the victim profiles because you can't print an odd number. There were 17, so we had to add a page, and then we did seven spreads of coverage for the two weeks and the return to school, but then we added in an additional opening spread.
Everything shifted because we added and changed. We really made a book in six weeks because everything that had been sent up until the 14th before the fire alarm went off, the numbering had to change. My students really drove the decisions for what we would cover in the book. It is a student publication.
I wrote a piece about that day because I didn't want them to have to do it. They were already writing profiles for the friends they lost and the teachers they lost. And to have them write one more thing just didn't seem right, and they designed the memorials for their friends, and it was really, really hard to watch them do it.
But I was also very much on autopilot at that point because I was here between 10 and 12 hours a day for six weeks because we had to get this book finished. Our publisher forgave all of our deadlines, and we increased our number of copies written. Normally I would have ordered a thousand copies, but then after everything happened, I was talking to my yearbook rep and the kids and I'm like, “Okay, well what if nobody else buys a book?” This is not a priority for anyone. Well, on the 15th, online sales were still coming through, so we knew we had something special and something important. And a yearbook is always a time capsule, but this was something we've never done, and there's never been a school who had done it before. Columbine happened after the book would have been done. Sandy Hook was an elementary school, so we figured this all out as we went, and the end result was this unbelievable book.
Every year, and you can ask any yearbook advisor, every year you hate the book you are working on because you look at it so many times, and if I have to look at this spread again, I'm going to scream. I don't hate that book. And I have never hated that book. And it went on to win a bunch of awards, including a Gold Crown from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association out of Columbia University. And that's the highest honor that they give.