Parents of Sandy Hook Victims Speak out at Press Conference

By Katie Melone

Nicole Hockley still reaches for her son Dylan’s hand in parking lots. She still expects him to crawl into her bed at night for cuddles, she told a rapt audience Monday.

As for the tragedy that claimed the life of her six-year-old son, and that of 19 other children and six adults on Dec. 14th at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., she said: “I don’t want there to be a next time.”

Followed by a handful of other parents grieving the loss of their children in the same incident, Hockley shared the experience of losing her little boy so suddenly and inexplicably during a press conference in Newtown, Conn. Dozens of community members and media had gathered at Edmond Town Hall on Main Street for the announcement of the formation of Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit group created in response to the mass shooting, one of the worst in U.S. history. (In its infancy, the group was formerly known as Newtown United.)

Rabbi Shaul Praver, who has led Temple Adath in Newtown for 11 years, said after the press conference that while there is much healing to be done, Newtown can move forward in a positive way.

“We don’t want our town to be known as the town of tragedy,” Praver said. “We want our town to be known as a place of great change in this country. And it all starts with love and it’s all going to end with love.”

Sandy Hook Promise's mission is to prevent future such tragedies by identifying common sense solutions and demanding “real change.” They pledge also to support the victims’ families, the survivors, first responders, schoolteachers, school staff and the community. 

“Doing nothing is not an option,” said Tom Bittman, a co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise.

The group hopes to launch a national dialogue on three important topics – school safety, mental health and accountability and responsibility when it comes to guns.

The group declined to take a stance on gun policy or specific reforms they might advocate on the state or federal level. Some of the members of Sandy Hook Promise are gun owners who have taught their children to safely handle guns, Bittman noted, and several of the co-founders emphasized that there is no one quick fix.

“It’s not just what government should do, it’s what I should do, what you should do, what we should do together,” Bittman said.

Update: President Obama announced his new plan to reduce gun violence on January 16, saying, “if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.”

"Sandy Hook Promise welcomes the broad focus of the President's proposals. We appreciate his decisive action to help address through Executive Order immediate opportunities for reform, and we applaud his broader commitment to finding meaningful common sense solutions to help prevent similar acts of violence in other communities in America. Hopefully this will begin a thoughtful debate in Congress on how best to prevent future incidents of gun violence.

However, a solution won’t happen just in Washington. We encourage everyone, citizens and politicians, to make and uphold the Sandy Hook Promise, to engage in a constructive national dialogue on all of the important issues involved. As an organization, our purpose is to ensure that we have that dialogue and take action, not just in Washington but in our communities and our homes." -Tim Makris, co-founder, Sandy Hook Promise

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