9-Year-Old Sandy Hook Survivor Chillingly Tells Parents ‘You Promised You Would Protect Us’

sandyhookIn the month following the Sandy Hook massacre, Newtown, Connecticut continues to grieve. We’re still talking about the 26 victims as issues of gun control, mental health, and violent toys have managed to remain center in a notoriously fickle news cycle. But we’re also still learning details about that tragic day from Sandy Hook survivors. One couple, David and Francine Wheeler, who lost a son, volunteered a very chilling reaction from their surviving child.

“The Rachel Maddow Show” aired an exclusive interview with one of the families who lost a child at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Among the Wheelers’ impressive ability to laugh and speak candidly about their grief as parents, the couple expressed how they are not finished parenting their deceased 6-year-old son Benjamin. Like some of the Sandy Hook parents who lost children, the Wheelers have other children to continue raising, their surviving 9-year-old son Nate.

When recounting the events of December 14th, 2012, the parents shared that their eldest son was in the gym when the shooting occurred.  But when the family got word that their youngest member did not survive, the perceptive 9-year-old said, according to his mother, “you promised you would protect us.” Francine responded to such an eerie observation from her son with the following:

“I did promise him that. So, what do I say to him? I can’t change what happened. I know it wasn’t our fault. We just sent him to school  But I’ll do whatever I can to help protect Nate and to help protect Ben’s spirit.”

Surely promising to protect their child, no matter what, is at the core of what many parents vow to do. But 9-year-old Nate’s reaction concisely puts to words one of the most gripping reactions to the Newtown tragedy — the underlying parental vow that many across our nation quickly saw come undone.



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  • LiteBrite

    The Monday after this tragedy, I had a sobbing breakdown in front of my husband (and after my son went to bed). Through my tears, I said to my husband several times, “I can’t protect him [Our son].” And if that was my reaction – someone on the peripheral of this horrible event – I can’t even imagine how the parents of these children must feel.

    • TxDaydreamer

      I agree. I cried for so many days following the shooting, and I didn’t even know anyone in there. What got to me was that I have a 5 year old, and the thought of the pain these parents were going through was heart-wrenching. After about a week, I started to accept it and cope. It still makes me tear up a little bit but not as bad as the few days after it happened. I try to stay away from any news coverage about it. I started to read the People magazine article about it but couldn’t even get through that.

      Are you ok? Sometimes if we’re feeling extreme grief over something like this, it helps to talk to a trusted friend or, if you are religious, a pastor.

      The best we can do is pray for the families and pray we’ll survive this.

    • LiteBrite

      Am I ok? I think so. I know for the first two weeks I definitely was not, and it was noticeable. My husband finally told me I was to stop reading about the tragedy. He said he was worried I was internalizing this too much and that if it continued he wanted me to talk to someone.He wasn’t wrong and for the most part I’ve stepped away from the situation. I still tear up but not as much. (Yeah, the People article is a hard one to read.)

      I have a five-year-old too – not much older than these children – and that was part of my grief. I can’t imagine that kind of pain.

    • Justme

      I think what you wrote is at the heart of many of the “Mommy Wars” and all that other crap. People want to do EVERYTHING in their power to protect their children from all the terror that can happen in life.

      We wind ourselves up thinking “if I do this and don’t do that, then that bad thing will NEVER happen.”

      But from the perspective of the parents…there was nothing they could have done to prevent the unthinkable. It didn’t matter whether those children were breast or bottle fed, whether their parents practiced AP or used Babywise….they all were kissed on their heads and sent off to school that awful morning.

    • LiteBrite

      I know, and that’s what scares me the most. These parents did nothing more than send their children to a place hundreds (thousands) of parents were also sending their own children to at the same time, including me. Every day I drop my kid off at the school’s on-site daycare and head off to work, leaving him in the hands of the various daycare staff and the school’s teachers. And I pretty much trust them to keep his (and everyone else’s) best interest at heart, which I think they do a damn good job of. But who could ever prepare for something like this?

      At the time, I really hoped that the tragedy was borne out of something like the mom was a teacher there or an altercation with the staff. At least then there would’ve been an explanation other than “bad shit sometimes happens to good people.” (Which is the only reason I think anyone has been able to come up with so far.) Not that it would’ve been any less horrible, but at least there would’ve been some reason besides a random disturbed individual walking into a school because he could.

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