By Rob Ryser
The News-Times, Danbury, Conn.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son was among those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, has become a beacon of hope and strength in the face of tragedy. After losing her son, she co-founded “Sandy Hook Promise”, a Newtown-based gun-violence prevention group.
Nicole Hockley would take back her life of anonymity in a flash if the circumstances that thrust her into a national spotlight could be reversed.
So when People magazine named the Sandy Hook resident among its “25 Women Changing the World,” it brought the cost of her loss to the present.
“It’s something I wish didn’t have to happen,” said Hockley, whose 6-year-old son was among the 20 first-graders and six educators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. “But for People to honor the work of Sandy Hook Promise, it helps spread the mission and the message to people who may have not heard it.”
Sandy Hook Promise is the Newtown-based gun-violence prevention group Hockley co-founded with others who lost loved ones in the Sandy Hook massacre.
Along with Mark Barden, who lost his son in the shootings, Hockley has become the face of the organization, serving as a spokeswoman, a fundraiser, a program developer, and often just a mother, trying to reach other parents to end gun violence.
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Hockley made headlines with an emotional Hillary Clinton at a New Hampshire rally a year ago, following a mass shooting at an Oregon Community College.
Hockley’s organization was back in the headlines soon after that rally when it launched a nationwide school-based initiative called “Say Something” that teaches students to tell a trusted adult when they see signs a peer is threatening to commit harm.
That program was followed in the spring with another nationwide school-based peer-support program called “Start With Hello,” which teaches students how to reach out to classmates who are isolated.
In her People magazine profile, published last week, Hockley says “Dylan is with me every day in my heart. The more I learned about his death, and the person who took his life, I recognized there were signs for years and multiple opportunities for intervention.”
The person who took her son’s life was a troubled and isolated 20-year-old named Adam Lanza, who was too shy to shake hands or say “hello,” and whose struggles with autism, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder could have been treated better by his parents and by school officials, according to a report by the state Office of the Child Advocate.
“Gun violence is preventable if you know the signs,” Hockley told People magazine.
Hockley said on Monday while the tenor of the presidential election campaign has caused her to despair at times that the nation is not making progress toward mental-health reform and gun-violence prevention, she has been inspired by those fighting to unite for solutions.
Among the women named by People who are changing the world along with Hockley are first lady Michelle Obama, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg and NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson.
Hockley’s recognition can only help Sandy Hook Promise’s cause, a co-founder of the organization said.
“We’re proud of her,” said James Belden, Sandy Hook Promise’s operations director.