(NEW YORK) — One month after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, parents gathered in Newtown, Conn., to publicly pay tribute to their slain children and to support the founders of the non-profit Sandy Hook Promise, who outlined discussion points for a national dialogue on guns and violence.
Speaking at a press conference at Newtown, Conn., Monday morning, Tom Bittman, co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise, outlined three discussion points that the organization hopes will bolster a national discussion and affect change in communities: gun responsibility, mental health and making public spaces safer.
“We have a responsibility to make something happen,” Bittman said. “We want Newtown to be remembered for change. We refuse to be remembered only for our loss. We want the shooting to be remembered as a turning point.”
Bittman emphasized that some of the members of Sandy Hook Promise are gun owners, but that they believe in responsibility and accountability. He also said that though new laws can be passed by Congress in the wake of the shooting, which left 20 children and six adults dead on Dec. 14, 2012, the organization is looking to individuals to look for solutions for what they can do in their communities.
“We don’t have all of the answers, but we do know some of the questions,” he said. “If we search for new strategies, we might find solutions we couldn’t have dreamed of a decade ago.”
The group is asking people across the country to sign the Sandy Hook Promise, which asks participants “do everything I can to encourage and support common sense solutions that make my community and our country safer from similar acts of violence.”
Sandy Hook Promise was formed in the days following the December 14 shooting under the original name Newtown United.
Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan Hockley was killed in the shooting, spoke frankly about the loss of her son and the moments that she forgets he is gone.
“It’s a sad honor to be here today,” she said. “At times it feels like only yesterday, and at others it feels like many years have passed,” she said. “I still find myself reaching for Dylan’s hand as I walk through a parking lot. I expect him to crawl into bed beside me for early morning cuddles before school … it’s so hard to believe he’s gone.”
David Wheeler, whose son Ben died at Sandy Hook Elementary, pointedly asked parents to question how far they’d to ensure their children’s safety.
“I would respectfully request that every parent in this country … pause and think and ask yourself, what is it worth doing to keep your children safe?” he said. “What is it worth to you? What is it worth doing?”
Appearing on ABC’s Good Morning America Monday, Jimmy Greene and Nelba Marquez-Greene, who also spoke at Monday’s press conference, spoke of their grief for their little girl, Ana Marquez-Greene, and honored her memory.
“She was kind, she was loving, she was smart — and she was also a fashionista — she loved those gaudy flowers. I’m wearing it for her today,” Nelba Marquez-Greene said, referring to her flower headwear. “We’re hoping that through Sandy Hook Promise, we can bring awareness to issues, and start a conversation based on love and respect.”
Ana caught the nation’s attention in a video where she sang “Come Thou Almighty King” while her 9-year-old brother Isaiah played the piano. Marquez-Greene said that she wants her work now to be a tribute to her little girl.
“[She was] passionate, she was abut loving God and loving people, and I hope that that can be the legacy that we leave,” she said. “That love wins, and that love will prevail in this.”
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