Parents of Sandy Hook victims form group to end gun violence
01/14/2013 03:38:32 PM PST
01/14/2013 04:18:51 PM PST
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Hockley defined the mission of Sandy Hook Promise, which has 17 co-founders among residents of the town, as reaching out to a nation of communities to come together to transform the dialogue around violence in America. "I don't know yet what the changes are. I come with no pre-conceived agenda. I do believe there is no quick fix single action," Hockley said, setting the tone for a deliberate, open dialogue across the country one day before Vice President Joe Biden is expected to present President Barack Obama with an agenda of changes in response to the tragedy.
NEWTOWN - Nicole Hockley told the media and Newtown residents that she doesn't want to be the parent who has to comfort any future victims of gun violence.
Hockley was one of four parents of the 20 first-graders at the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacred a month ago who spoke Monday at the announcement of the Sandy Hook Promise group that has come together to urge a national dialogue on gun control, school safety and mental health solutions.
"I still find myself reaching for Dylan's hand to walk through a parking lot or expecting him to crawl into bed beside me for early morning cuddles," Hockley said, her voice breaking.
Adam Lanza, 20, shot his way into the school on Dec. 14 with a Bushmaster AR-15 equipped with a high capacity magazine and murdered six staff members after killing his mother in the home they shared. He took his own life as first responders rushed into the building.
"I do not want to be someone sharing my experience and consoling another parent next time. I do not want there to be a next time," Hockley said.
Several organizers spoke about the group, but it was the voices of the parents that were the most powerful at the meeting attended by dozens of reporters from across the country, as well as community members, in the basement of the Edmond Town Hall in the close-knit community of Newtown.
"My family chose to live here and we stand by our choice. One tragedy cannot undermine this town's spirit and love," said Hockley, who predicted Newtown in coming years will be even stronger, "a place that is helping to lead change and modeling the way a community should be."
Nelba Marquez-Greene, mother of Ana Marquez-Greene, recalled sending two children to school on Dec. 14 and only one returning home. "I pray that no mother no father ever has to go through this pain," which she said was "unbearable."
Marquez-Greene, calling on her personal faith, said her family is choosing "love" over "hate" to honor Ana's life. "Love wins. Love wins in Newtown and may love win in America Our hearts are broken. Our spirit is not and it is with this knowledge that we are able to move forward with purpose and strength."
Unlike some of the national discussion that already is reflecting the standoff that has prevented a consensus on gun reform and better mental health access, Marquez-Greene outlined what Sandy Hook Promise is all about.
"This is a promise to be open to all possibilities. There is no agenda other than to make our communities and our nation a safer place. This is a promise to have conversations on all the issues, conversations where listening is as important as speaking. Conversations where even those with the most opposing views debate in good will. This is a promise to turn conversation into actions. Things must change. This is the time," Marquez-Greene said.
Tom Bittman, one of the founders, said Sandy Hook Promise pledges to find the financial assistance needed to offer support services for the victims' families, the first responders and others hurt by the tragedy for as long as they need it, while also working on grassroots solution to the bigger issues.
He said the dialogue needs to encompass equal parts "love, compassion and common sense. Doing nothing - doing nothing - is no longer an option. We have let this happen too many times." Bittman said it is a matter of thinking and acting "differently."
Bittman said the county has been "stuck in a rut," with no movement even as gun violence and mass killings have continued.
In Aurora, Colo, on July, 12 were killed in a movie theater and 58 others suffered gunshot wounds; in January 2011 in Tuscon, Ariz., 18 were shot, six died and former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords sustained a brain injury; at Virginia Tech, a gunman killed 32 and 17 were hurt, while in 1999, two students at Columbine High School killed 12 students and a teacher, leaving 21 injured.
Also in the audience was Sandy Philips, the mother of Jessica Redfield Ghawi, who was one of the dozen persons killed in Aurora, and her husband, Lonnie Philips, who wanted to show their support for the Sandy Hook families.
"I think we are finally at a place in this country where the America people finally stood up and said 'enough. This cannot go on,'" Philips said. "Personally I don't want to belong to a society that has 20 children murdered, six educators - in our case, 12 at a movie theater. That is not society where if they choose to do nothing, I want to be a part of. That's not OK with me."