Friday, December 14, marked the sixth anniversary of the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that claimed the lives of 20 children aged between just six and seven-years-old, as well as six adult staff members. The incident was the deadliest mass shooting at a school in US history and the fourth-deadliest mass shooting by a single person. Six years on, the memories of the day are still painful to the parents of those who lost their young children in the tragedy.
One such parent is Mark Barden, whose seven-year-old son Daniel was one of the 19 first-graders who lost their lives on that fateful day.
Since then, he has worked to ensure his son's death is not meaningless, becoming a prominent advocate for gun control, and co-founding the Sandy Hook Promise, a national non-profit organization that aims to work towards preventing gun-related deaths due to crime, suicide, and accidental discharge. But the painful memories of December 14, 2012, continue to linger.
Recalling the day to People, he said, "I remember the things I was doing with Daniel like it was last week, not knowing they were his last final days." He described how he still remembered spending time with his son that morning in front of the Christmas tree they had put up at their home.
The shooting haunts him to this day, he said, explaining, "They are so vividly burned into my memory and my conscience that I find myself reliving these days. I have very vivid memories that creep into my consciousness and can level me if I’m not aware. That’s one part of this journey that I have to reckon with."
Nicole Hockley is another parent who cannot seem to forget the shooting, for she lost her six-year-old son Dylan in gunman Adam Lanza's killing spree. Hockley is the other co-founder of the Sandy Hook Promise who, along with Barden, had briefly considered running for Congress in Connecticut's sprawling 5th district on a gun-control advocacy platform. Sshe says December 14 "is a day I just want to get past."
She told People that she, along with other parents, were supposed to be in the classrooms making gingerbread houses with the kids and that, as the anniversary nears every year, her heart grows more volatile. "It becomes less and less controllable as it gets closer to the actual day," she said. "I distract myself by lunging headfirst into work."
That work includes her efforts for the Sandy Hook Promise, who recently released a new public service announcement that offered to teach students and people how to spot the crucial signs of potential school shooters and to speak out before another such shooting claimed more lives.
Besides marking these regular PSA's, the Sandy Hook Promise also promotes its Say Something Anonymous Reporting System which gives students and adults a portal to securely and anonymously post safety concerns that could help identify at-risk individuals before they hurt themselves or others.
Here is a video of their most recent PSA.