Families tell Couric about loved ones who died at Sandy Hook
Updated 8:50 pm, Monday, February 25, 2013
NEWTOWN -- Sandy Hook first-grader Ben Wheeler's nickname was "Crash'' as he went "headlong into life,'' filling his family's household with an exuberant noise that now is silent.
Fellow first-grader Daniel Barden, a curly red-headed boy missing his two front teeth, was sweet and kind who "made the world a better place.''
The descriptions of those two boys were just two of a montage of reflections given by their families to television news personality and daytime talk show host Katie Couric of the 20 first-graders and six educators who were gunned down in the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14.
At a taping in the Alexandria Room in the Edmond Town Hall on Main Street, Couric interviewed some of the victims' families as well as showed clips of interviews for a segment expected to air on the ABC show "Katie'' scheduled for March 4.
With compassion and commitment to sharing the journey of these families and community in the aftermath of a horror that has reverberated around the world, Couric told an audience of about 75 people, most of them family and friends of victims, educators and civic leaders, that she wants to assure these lives are forever remembered.
Those interviewed talked of the grief and the intent on finding "common sense'' solutions to violence.
Nicole Hockley, mother of 6-year-old Dylan, a child diagnosed with autism who died in the arms of his educational assistant Ann Marie Murphy, was clear that each day is a struggle. She still expects to see her child who she described as "pure love'' peeking out from around a corner.
David Wheeler, Ben's father, said he often hears from other parents that they cannot imagine his family's suffering.
But he said he would want parents to "imagine'' it, not just the first day but all the days to come as in that "imagining'' will come the will to make the changes needed to avoid tragedy befalling more families and communities in the future.
Sandy Phillips of San Antonio, Texas, the mother of Aurora, Colo. movie theater shooting victim Jessica Ghawi, said she returned to Newtown to wrap her arms around the grieving families and to stand in solidarity with them.
As a gun owner, Phillips told Couric she is an advocate for more gun responsibility, laws that eliminate loopholes and assure that those who should never own a gun are unable to get one.
Phillips and others on the show suggested the legacy of these lives cut far too short must be lasting change such that no other family be forced to weep over the grave of their murdered child, sibling or spouse. They applauded the love that has been shown to them by neighbors near and far.
For Bill Sherlach, husband of school psychologist Mary Sherlach who he shared his life with for 36 years and three days, his journey remains a day-to-day affair buoyed by his faith and love of "a lot of wonderful, beautiful people.''
"Everyone has to do something,'' said Sandy Hook Promise Founder Lee Schull of his organization's quest. "This (tragedy) can't be the final chapter.''