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AbledFamily Post banner shows a single candle burning in front of a black and white montage of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Newton, Connecticut with the headline: Newton +1: How the families are doing and How to talk to your children about it.

A Simple And Dignified Way To Mark The First Anniversary Of The Saddest Day 


The phrases ricocheted back and forth between breaking news reports on TV news channels soon after bullets ricocheted throughout another school . . . ‘it’s happened again’, ‘every parent’s nightmare’, and ‘another school is on lockdown after reports of a shooter in the building’ .


It’s almost as though we’ve become so conditioned and numbed to the spectacle of gun violence in what should be the safest of environments for our children, that we collectively shake our heads, say a silent prayer for the fallen, and hope like hell it never happens to one of our kids.


But this time was different. The sheer size of the massacre and the tender ages of the victims. It was an elementary school, for God’s sake. Who would and could do such a thing?


A photo collage shows the faces of the 26 children and educators killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre.


Now, one year later, the still too-fresh wounds of this atrocity are still too much to bear, period, for the community at the center of it. What could you possibly say? What could you possibly do that would be appropriate to honor the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School and comfort the families utterly shattered on that saddest of days?


The people of Newtown, Connecticut will speak volumes with the most understated and dignified of gestures . . . they will place candles in their windows to honor the victims.


Photo shows Miranda Pacchiana, center, of Newtown, Conn., holding a candle at the end of a National Vigil for Victims of Gun Violence in subdued lighting at Washington National Cathedral on December 12, 2013 in Washington, DC just prior to the next day first anniversary marking the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.

Miranda Pacchiana, center, of Newtown, Conn., holding a candle at the end of a National Vigil for Victims of Gun Violence in subdued lighting at Washington National Cathedral on December 12, 2013 in Washington, DC just prior to the next day first anniversary marking the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.


How Are The Families Doing?


In the two days before the dreaded anniversary, the private pain of the Sandy Hook victims’ loved ones was on public display as they joined with other family members from across the country who had lost loved ones to gun violence on a two-day trip to Washington, D.C., to highlight the deaths of more than 30,000 people killed nationwide by firearms since the Dec. 14, 2012 school shooting.


Before the service began, the cathedral’s bell rang for three minutes to represent the thousands of lives lost to gun violence every year. More than 700 well-wishers, including family of those slain at Sandy Hook, filled the cathedral. Many wore green ribbons to symbolize Newtown. 



Matt Bennett has been working with Newtown families for almost a year as a gun policy adviser for Sandy Hook Promise. He shares their stories with On Background on PostTV, the video channel of The Washington Post:



NBC’s Kate Snow discovered that for many of the families who lost a loved one in the Sandy Hook massacre, December 14 will be just another day of feeling the loss, no different than the day before or the day after:


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How To Talk To Your Children About The Sandy Hook Anniversary


Parents wondering how to talk to their children about the anniversary what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary faced an additional challenge because the day before the milestone, TV , radio and online news sources were ablaze with breaking news of yet another school shooting – this time at Arapahoe High School in the Denver, Colorado suburb of Centennial where an 18 year old gunman wounded one student and then shot himself after he couldn’t find the school librarian he came to kill.


Inevitably, the coverage looked and sounded eerily the same. And it was during that breaking news coverage of the Sandy Hook tragedy that ABC’s Dr. Jennifer Ashton offered advice for parents on how to talk about it with their kids and it still holds true today:



There are also some good resources at PBS Parents about talking with kids about news. 


Dr. Diane Levin, Ph.D., Professor of Education, Wheelock College and Co-Author of The War Play Dilemma, says children interpret the news in personal ways. “For example, when young children watch or listen to news reports about crime, bombings, and hurricanes, they may worry about their own safety. Because young children are not able to fully understand cause and effect and distance, it’s hard for them to make distinctions between an immediate threat and one that is far away.”


So it’s important for parents to reassure children and tailor the information to their age. With the anniversary of Sandy Hook and the latest shooting in Colorado, parents are likely to be facing a lot more questions from their kids. And perhaps the best strategy for the day is to mark it in solidarity with everyone in Newton by placing a candle in a window.

Remembering The Victims


Allison Wyatt, 6

Remembered as a kind and warm girl who made friends easily. An aspiring artist who would tape her drawings on walls all throughout the house.


Ana Marquez-Greene, 6

She loved to sing and dance as her brother played the piano. A music scholarship has been set up in her name.


Avielle Richman, 6

You’ll notice her photo in the montage to the left because of her wild curly hair and her white sunglasses. One of her favorite things to do was go horseback riding.


Benjamin Wheeler, 6

His family moved from Queens to Newton when he was a baby, but his parents often took him back to a Queen’s park to play with other kids. He’s since had a street named after him in Queens.


Caroline Previdi, 6

More than anything, she loved dancing everywhere she went. And she was serious about it too, attending jazz and ballet classes every week.


Catherine Hubbard, 6

You know that when someone’s first wish to Santa is for a fish that they’re an animal lover.  Catherine designed business cards for herself that read ‘Caretaker at Catherine’s Animal Shelter’.


Charlotte Bacon, 6

Like Catherine, she was another animal lover who loved any animal she met and will always be remembered as a sweet and friendly girl.


Chase Kowalski, 7

A real sports nut who taught himself to swim by watching Michael Phelps at the Olympics. He even finished top of the list for his age bracket at a kid’s triathlon.


Daniel Barden, 7

Remembered, in the subsequent media coverage, as the boy  missing his two front teeth. He loved to play drums, and because he wanted to be a firefighter, over 100 firefighters lined the road to his funeral.


Dylan Hockley, 6

Even though he’s dressed in a bright red sweatshirt in his photo, he loved the color purple and flapped his arms when he got excited because he thought he was a “beautiful butterfly”.


Emilie Parker, 6

Her family remembers her as spreading love all across the country as they moved from Utah to Oregon, New Mexico and lastly, Connecticut. She was buried next to her grandfather in Utah.


Grace McDonnell, 7

Gracie, as everyone called her, loved the ocean and the beach and had a special appreciation for lighthouses and for gathering seashells.


Jack Pinto, 6

When it comes to Giants fans, they don’t make ’em any bigger than Jack. He was buried with his Giants jersey and his gray and white stuffed fish.


James Mattioli, 6

Always a stand-out with his spiky hair, James was a sports nut and loved wearing T-shirts and shorts, even in the winter.


Jesse Lewis, 6

Jesse did odd jobs for his Dad so that he could buy Christmas ornaments and spent his last night alive shopping for them with his father, and planned to give one to his teacher, Victoria Soto, who also died in the shooting.


Jessica Rekos, 6

Her mother told everyone at her funeral that Jessica was the undisputed boss of the family. All she was looking forward to at Christmas was getting a real pair of cowboy boots.


Josephine Gray, 7

Seen in the photo montage with the big green hat, glasses and pink shirt, Josephine really loved two things: peanut butter and playing with her iPad.


Madeleine Hsu 6

Remembered as being very devoted to her little sister whom she always hugged before getting on the school bus. Madeleine was usually very quiet but always got very excited around dogs.


Noah Pozner, 6

Noah is survived by his twin sister who was in a different classroom the day of the shooting. His uncle remembers him as being “smart as a whip” and pretty rambunctious.


Olivia Engel, 6

Remembered for her infectious laugh and her devotion to her little brother Brayden. She died only days before she was to be an angel in her church’s Nativity play.


Dawn Hochsprung, 47

Sandy Hook’s Principal was the first to die as she confronted the gunman outside the front office. She was known for her dedication to education and her students.


Mary Sherlach, 56

Mary was Sandy Hook’s psychologist and was one year away from retirement. She had been in a meeting with Dawn Hochsprung when the shooting started and she died trying to warn other faculty members.


Anne Marie Murphy, 52

Known for being an artistic teacher’s aide, Anne Marie was found clutching 6 year-old Dylan Hockley close to her, which became a source of great comfort to Dylan’s family.


Lauren Rousseau, 30

After working multiple jobs to keep her substitute teacher job at Sandy Hook, Lauren was finally given a full-time substitute position in October, 2012 and replaced a first-grade teacher the day of the shooting. She died with her students and teacher’s aide Rachel D’ Avino.


Rachel D’Avino, 29

This behavioral therapist had just started working at Sandy Hook and spent her final moments trying to protect the 15 students in her classroom.


Victoria Leigh Soto, 27

She wanted to be a teacher from the age of 3. Victoria locked doors and hid students before throwing herself in front of the gunman to protect her Grade 1 class.


May they all rest in peace.



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