Families of Newtown School Massacre Victims Organize Against Gun Violence

Jan 14, 2013 - 0 Comments

Jan. 14, 2013 New York Times

NEWTOWN, Conn. – Several parents whose children were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting joined the national debate on gun violence on Monday, gathering here to begin sketching their response to the massacre by helping start a nonprofit organization aimed at preventing the kind of bloodshed that turned this quaint New England community into a national symbol of grief.

Mr. Greene's wife, Nelba Marquez-Greene, touched the leg of Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was also killed.

In some of their first public statements since the Dec. 14 shooting that killed 20 children and 6 staff members at the school, the families of 11 of the children and adult victims appeared at a news conference and called for a national dialogue around issues of mental health, school safety and what their organization, called Sandy Hook Promise, described as “gun responsibility.”

“On Friday, Dec. 14, I put two children on the bus, and only one came home,” said Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose 6-year-old daughter, Ana, died that day. “I hope that no parent, grandparent or caregiver of children ever has to go through that pain.”

The news conference, which included other members of the Newtown community, was the first time a group of families have spoken publicly about the tragedy. It was held in the auditorium of the historic Edmond Town Hall in downtown Newtown.

The families entered holding hands and wearing green ribbons, and filed on stage. Some people held pictures of the children they lost. As they sat on stage, some wiped away tears, still gripped in mourning.

“It’s a sad honor to be here today,” said Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan, 6, was found dead in the arms of his favorite school aide, Anne Marie Murphy, who apparently died trying to shield him.

“I still find myself reaching for Dylan’s hand to walk through a parking lot,” she said as she stood at the podium alongside Ms. Marquez-Greene, “or expect him to crawl into my bed for early morning cuddles before school. It’s so hard to believe he’s gone.”

The gathering came as President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. prepare to unveil gun-control proposals as soon as Tuesday that are expected to call for a ban on the kind of assault weapon and high-capacity ammunition magazines used by Adam Lanza in the Newtown shooting.

But asked where the group stood on tough new gun measures, Tim Makris, one of its 17 founders, said it was still in the process of educating itself before taking firm any stands.

“It’s only been 30 days, and for the past 30 days we’ve really been looking inward and supporting our community,” said Mr. Makris, who had a son at the school, who was not hurt.

“We love the focus of the president,'’ he added, “and we love that the vice president reached out recently to talk directly to the families that chose to meet with him. But we don’t have an immediate response right now. We’re looking for dialogue. We’re looking for ideas. We’re looking for a national discussion to take place. We don’t want to just come out and say this is what we stand for, this is what we believe in. We want to encourage a national discussion on this. Do something different. When you look at what’s been done in the past, it hasn’t gotten us very far. We have to do something different.”

David and Francine Wheeler, whose son, Benjamin, 6, was killed, explained why they joined the campaign.

“'Parent’ is defined as a ‘point of origin,'” Mr. Wheeler said. “What I have recently come to realize is that I am not done being the best parent I can be for Ben. Not by a very long measure. If there is something in our society that clearly needs to be fixed or healed or resolved, that resolution needs a point of origin. It needs parents.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 14, 2013


An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of one of the founders of Sandy Hook Promise.  He is Tim Makris, not Markis.

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