In 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.