"Sandy Hook is tattooed on our hearts," Julie Schardt, survivor of the 1989 Cleveland Elementary School shooting in Stockton, told FOX40.
On that day, Schardt recognized one of her students by her red shoes. The second grader gunned down alongside four of her classmates at Cleveland Elementary School by a felon on a rampage. It was nearly three decades ago but to the survivors' dismay, history has kept repeating itself.
"This was a horrible thing. How could this possibly have happened?" Schardt said. "We could never have imagined that it would have continued and continue to get worse."
Schardt and other survivors had kept in touch to support one another -- then came Dec. 14, 2012. Twenty-six people, many of them children, were killed by gunman Adam Lanza in Newtown, Conn.
"Every time there's another event, it opens up new wounds," Cleveland Elementary shooting survivor Sue Rothman said.
It was no longer enough simply meet and mourn so they joined a movement -- Cleveland School Remembers -- a Stockton Chapter of the Brady campaign to end gun violence.
"It's about prevention. We don't want to keep cleaning up messes," Rothman said.
Their focus is getting Congress to pass a national universal background check law and assault weapon ban, but they've so far been unsuccessful.
"It's not personal enough to Congress for them to do something," Rothman said.
Meanwhile, just down the street at Cleveland Elementary School, so much has changed.
"We have been consistent in securing the perimeter limited points of ingress," Stockton Unified School District Police Chief Anne Brewer said.
Locked school doors, security badges, and active shooter drills are now standard at schools across California in the last five years. Measures like that were credited for saving lives in November when a gunman tried to access Rancho Tehama Elementary school which had gone on lockdown.
"Because things like Sandy Hook have happened," Brewer said. "If something like that happens here we are prepared for it."
But 28 years after Cleveland and five years after Sandy Hook, these teachers say they've learned there's some loss there's no preparing for.
"It's not just the family that loses the person," survivor Judy Weldon said. "It's the entire neighborhoods and rippling out. It's the country."