Mom of Newtown Victim Pens Letter to Orlando Families: 'I Am Sorry Our Tragedy Wasn't Enough'
A mother who lost her 6-year-old daughter was murdered in 2012’s Newtown school shooting has sent love and support to the families of those lost in the Orlando massacre in an emotional letter lamenting that the losses at Sandy Hook Elementary were not enough to prevent another tragedy.
“I am sorry. I am so, so sorry,” Nelba Márquez-Greene, whose daughter Ana Grace was killed at Sandy Hook, wrote. “I am sorry that our tragedy here in Sandy Hook wasn't enough to save your loved ones.”
Márquez-Greene had come home from a walk when she was flooded with calls from loved ones concerned to see how she was after news broke that 49 people were killed after gunman Omar Mateen opened fire in the packed Pulse nightclub, a gay hotspot in central Florida.
“My first reaction was visceral. I know the horror of waiting to hear. A helicopter flew overhead. It made everything too real. Too familiar. I panicked. I called my friend. I cried. … I am reliving being one of the family members in wait,” Márquez-Greene wrote on her daughter’s memorial Facebook page.
Ana Grace was one of 20 first-graders shot and killed by gunman Adam Lanza, who also murdered six adult school staffers and his own mother, before turning the gun on himself.
“I want to crawl up in a fetal position on the sofa and watch Harry Potter movies with my son," Marquez-Greene wrote. "Perhaps I will build a bullet proof barrier around my house and just order groceries from Peapod all summer. Or for the rest of our lives.
"But my message was and is and always will be 'love wins.'"
She also urged families to refuse to believe any critics who "may insinuate that somehow this is your loved ones fault because they were gay or any other reason. Nor is it God's wrath.
"They did that to us on Sandy Hook too. And it broke my heart. You will receive love from a million places. Embrace it. Take good care of yourself. This will be a forever journey. Some ugly will come your way too. Delete. Ignore. Let it go."
Other parents who lost their children in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School offered their support to those in Orlando, holding a vigil Sunday night in honor of the victims.
"It should be unbelieveable, but of course you think, 'oh my gosh it's happening again,'" Mark Barden, whose 7-year-old son Daniel was killed by Lanza, told News 12 Connecticut.
His organization, Sandy Hook Promise, works to educate people to recognize at risk individuals and speak out to prevent gun violence.
"Thoughts and prayers are wonderful, they're not enough," Barden said.
Michele Gay's 7-year-old daughter, Josephine, was also killed in the attack on the elementary school.
"The pain is similar incident to incident, but each of these is so very unique," she told WCVB-TV. "We are not involved in the gun debate, and we're not involved in the terror watch. As people who have suffered tragic loss, we can't help but reach out to them with our thoughts and prayers."
The devastation, though disheartening, only served to spur Márquez-Greene on in her mission to continue speaking out about education, mental health and gun violence, she wrote.
"I am going to Wisconsin to spread the message that love wins. In honor of your loved ones. Because hate, ugly, evil and prejudice cannot silence love, courage, good," she noted. "I don't know what to tell my son. But know I will commit to learning about each and every one of your loved ones.
"And we will commit as a family to learning about their lives and the legacies you build in their memory. But I am so sorry. Because you shouldn't have to be doing this. You should be planning summer outings to the beach and barbecues and birthdays and graduations. And I know it will never be the same.
“My son will learn about your loved ones. And we will not forget. We will say their names out loud. We will remember your children. As you remembered and learned about ours."
She urged loved ones of those personally affected by Sunday’s mass shooting to also speak out.
"Friends- you are either a part of the problem or a part of the solution," she wrote. "Victims cannot bear the burden of this alone. Please help.
"Bring up gun violence in your house of worship and/or community group," Márquez-Greene continued. "If you know someone who shows extreme hate of a group or individual, has access to weapons and you feel there is inherent risk of harm- please call your local police immediately. Let's be more than bystanders. Let's save lives."