Honoring the 26 Lives Lost 11 Years Ago at Sandy Hook

In their honor, family and friends of those who were killed have helped make real changes in how our country approaches school safety and mental health.

Honoring the 26 Lives Lost 11 Years Ago at Sandy Hook

Photo: Анастасия Гевко, Adobe Stock

We are reposting this tribute article from last year as today marks 11 years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. Campus Safety is grateful and amazed by the victims’ families’ tireless efforts in keeping kids safe at school.

In a podcast released today, Michele Gay and Alissa Parker, co-founders of Safe and Sound Schools and the mothers of Josephine Gay and Emilie Parker, discuss the difficult aspects of the grieving process as they navigate the month of December and Remembrance Day.


It’s been 10 years since the lives of 20 first graders and six educators were tragically taken at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Many, although no one more than the families who lost loved ones, likely recall where they were when they heard about the shooting. It was a day that showed what true evil and sickness can look like and made the unthinkable a reality.

In the ten years since the shooting, family, and friends of those who were killed have channeled their pain and anger into making real and impactful changes in how our country approaches school safety and mental health. They have also established organizations and foundations that help carry on the victims’ memories and legacies.

Safe and Sound Schools, established by parents who lost children in Sandy Hook, shared in a social media post today, “No one organization represents us all, so we invite you to learn more about how each family has chosen to honor the legacy of their loved one.” My Sandy Hook Family, a tribute website, is one place to do so. It serves as a “singular place of sharing, communication, and contact with the families of those who lost their lives that day.”

Below are excerpts from those tributes and links to additional memorial pages. The full tributes can be read at mysandyhookfamily.org.

Charlotte Bacon

To love Charlotte is a blessing. She was unique and left a lasting impression on all. Charlotte was a true free spirit and independent thinker. She made us laugh daily with her crazy antics and cleverness. She was in a perpetual state of movement; running, jumping, skipping, and dancing. Her curiosity often led to mischief and mishaps that still have us in stitches today. Charlotte’s energy and enthusiasm for almost everything was infectious. We hear loving stories from friends and family and the words they use are smart, funny, curious, messy, in-intimidated, and adventurous to describe her. We like to use the word BOLD, and it is this trait that we emulate as we honor Charlotte. We strive to honor Charlotte, her beautiful life, and her dreams by establishing and supporting programs and scholarships around the things she loved most. Her joy will live in our hearts forever.

Memorials to Charlotte:

Daniel Barden

For Daniel, kindness knew no boundaries. Daniel was a child who would hold the door open for strangers, scoop up his tiny ant friends to reunite them with their families, and befriend the classmate who always sat alone. Through his constant show of empathy towards all living things and his effortless joy for life, Daniel taught us so much in his short stay with us. Wherever Daniel was, he served as an inspiration to others – the stories are endless.

Memorial to Daniel:

Josephine Gay

Born in Maryland, Joey was the youngest of three girls in our family. She enjoyed many things in this life, but her favorite was being with her older sisters and playing games with them. She liked to snuggle on the couch and watch movies with us. Her favorites were The Chipmunks, Lemonade Mouth, and all of the Barbie movies. She loved to swim and went to the pool each weekend and throughout the summer. She liked art and playing outside on her playset – and all of our neighbors. Her favorite books were the Fancy Nancy stories, and she never tired of having them read to her each night at bedtime. 

Memorials to Josephine:

Avielle Rose Richman

Avielle Rose Richman was born in San Diego, California on October 17th, 2006 into a family of story tellers. With a spitfire personality, and a love of laughter, Avielle was rarely without a giant grin, and was often barefoot. Like her parents, she loved stories and demanded them as she was falling asleep, taking a bath, riding in the car, and on every walk she took. She already understood that her life — her growing up — was going to be a series of stories.

Memorial to Avielle:

Rachel D’Avino

Rachel Marie D’Avino had an unrelenting determination and a clear focus on helping adults and children with Autism. She attended University of Hartford, Post University and University of St. Joseph. On 12/12/12, she had just completed her final requirements to become a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst. On that night Rachel wrote “It is my dream that you know my name as a leader in Behavioral Analysis for children and adults with Autism; however I will be thrilled if I make a few people have an easier more enjoyable life.”

Memorial to Rachel:

Jessica Adrienne Rekos

Jessica was our beautiful little girl who brought so much happiness to our lives. She was an independent, smart, and creative little girl who was always eager to learn new things. She spent hours “researching” Orca whales and just wanted to be “friends with an Orca”. She also spent her time watching movies about horses, and she had fallen in love with the idea of becoming a cowgirl. She took horseback riding lessons every week, and she loved going on trail rides through the woods.

Memorial to Jessica:

Victoria Leigh Soto

[Vicki’s] zest for life was evident to all who knew her, she was serious if she needed to be and silly more often than people would expect. She was beautiful with sparkling blue eyes. Vicki was the perfect daughter, loyal and loving cousin and friend as well as, the best person you would ever meet. Vicki’s mantra was to live each day as it was your last and to always: Live, Laugh, Love. Our family has set up a foundation to provide scholarships to students going into the field of education. We also collect and donate new books to schools in need.

Memorial to Vicki:

Benjamin Andrew Wheeler

Ben woke up with a smile on his face and carried it everywhere he went. The constant sparkle in his eye showed his delight with all the world and his slightly mischievous plans for it. And he was figuring it all out. We loved his inquisitive mind and his desire to have every question answered, with the utmost urgency. We loved his thirst for experience and that little bit of shyness that came out from time to time. We still hear the echo of his insistent voice, clamoring for the attention he knew he deserved and the world would give him. We followed every direction he gave as we scratched his back at bedtime, played every Beatles song he requested, and knew that if we skipped a page in that night’s book we would certainly hear about it. His gap-toothed grin and his concern that he hadn’t yet lost a tooth. Benny, we think about you every second of every minute of every hour of every day and now you are our lighthouse. Forever.

Memorial to Ben:

Dawn Hochsprung

Dawn had two daughters at a young age and raised them mostly by herself, but she never wavered in her ambition. She balanced her own education with her responsibilities as a mother. She never missed her daughters’ softball games–she may have been in the bleachers doing homework, but she was always there. Her career advanced and her schedule grew hectic, but she never failed to be there for her daughters. They would often call during her workday and get her voicemail, but always got a text right back that said, “I’m in a meeting. Are you OK?” Dawn died as she lived: always in control, handling whatever came her way. There is nothing that could have stopped her from trying to protect the people she loved.

Memorial to Dawn:

Ana Grace Márquez-Greene

Ana Grace was widely known for her enthusiastic love of God, people, music, food and fun. She instituted the house rule of “seconds”. Her favorite seconds included second breakfast, second dessert and second hugs… And she could out-groove just about anyone. A budding little musician, Ana wanted to be a teacher, dancer or pop star when she grew up. Love wins.

Memorial to Ana:

Catherine Violet Hubbard

Six-year-old Catherine was kind. A lover of all animals, she always made it a point to show them extraordinary compassion. Whether she was gently cradling an insect in her palm, or squeezing a furry friend in a full-bodied hug, Catherine wanted them to know that they could trust her and that she would keep them safe from harm. She said that when she grew up, she was going to take care of the animals, even creating her own business cards for “Catherine’s Animal Shelter,” with the self-appointed title of “Care Taker.”

Memorial to Catherine:

Noah Pozner

Noah was energy in motion. His zest for life was contagious. He was endlessly inquisitive, always wanting to know the why and how of things. He loved intricate, imaginative play with his Legos and superhero figurines. He loved playgrounds and the outdoors. Most of all, he loved his family and shared an unbreakable and unbroken bond with his twin sister, Arielle. He loved a good joke and was an enthusiastic storyteller. We miss the music of his full-bellied laughter, the warmth of his hugs, and the twinkle in his beautiful eyes with an indescribable, timeless sorrow.

Memorial to Noah:

James Radley Mattioli

James was six. He was all boy. He wrestled his Dad on the floor, jumped off tall objects, cuddled with his Mom and grew faster than we could believe. ‘J’ loved to be a part of whatever his sister was doing; he learned so much from her and they had an amazing relationship. He loved school, his friends and being outside. James was an avid swimmer and had a keen interest in Math. He had boundless energy, love, happiness and curiosity. James is greatly missed by everyone whose life he touched. We were blessed to have him in our lives. To honor the memory of our son, we will support programs which brought him joy and enriched his life.

Memorial to James:

  • James R. Mattioli Memorial Fund C/O Newtown Savings Bank; 39 Main Street Newtown, CT 06470
  • “To honor the memory of our son, we will support programs which brought him joy and enriched his life,” says his family.

Mary Sherlach

Mary’s Fund was established in 2013 following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Named after Mary Sherlach, the school psychologist at Sandy Hook, Mary was one of the first educators killed that morning. Established by her family and friends, Mary’s Fund is dedicated to continuing her work of providing mental health services to children and teens.

Memorial to Mary:

Emilie Parker

As Emilie’s parents, we are striving to honor our daughter by continuing to support the things that she loved. Emilie was an exceptional artist, and we enjoyed watching her as she expressed her creativity, love, excitement and her true self through art. We want to celebrate Emilie’s passion by supporting the arts with funding for programs in the community and schools.

Memorial to Emilie:

Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau

Lauren was a sensitive and focused young woman. As a child she played school and always kept her desire to become a professional educator as she grew. She recently worked three jobs to cover her expenses, including the most recent at SHES as a building substitute. She was so happy to finally get a position in educating young children. Memories of her love of family, friends, customers at Starbucks and her cat Layla will always keep her alive.

Memorials to Lauren:

  • Two scholarships have been set up in her name to help defray expenses for students desiring to become elementary school teachers. The first is The Lauren Rousseau Memorial Scholarship / Danbury High School Scholarship Fund / 43 Clapboard Ridge Rd / Danbury, CT 06811 and the Lauren Rousseau Memorial Scholarship / University of Bridgeport Graduate School of Education / 126 Park Ave / Bridgeport, CT 06604. Contributions to these causes would make Lauren extremely proud.

Chase Michael Anthony Kowalski

Chase was an amazing son, brother, and grandson whose heart was only filled with love for all the people he touched. He was a fun-loving, energetic boy who had a true love of life. He completed his first triathlon at the age of six and ran in many community road races. Chase had a deep love for the game of baseball and enjoyed practicing with his father and teammates. Joining the Cub Scouts was just one of his many interests. He could often be found in the yard playing ball, riding his bike or quad. Chase’s love will continue to live on and touch many more lives through the work of our foundation in his memory.

Memorial to Chase:

Dylan Christopher Hockley

We remember his smile. His laugh. His love of bouncing on trampolines and eating chocolate. His beautiful eyes and mischievous grin. His deep empathy in reacting to the feelings of others. His favorite books. The giant purple dots he made almost every day at school. His sensitivity to loud noises and his love of routine. His computer games and his most loved movies. The way he would lie in the warm sand at the beach, or take joy in finding the moon in the sky. How he called lightning “beautiful”, even while he was scared by the thunder. How he would ride a rollercoaster time after time and still not want to get off. The way other children were drawn to him, and how he wanted to play with them so much, even though he didn’t always know how. The way he loved to cuddle, have his back stroked, be tickled, or use other people as pillows when he snuggled against them.

Memorials to Dylan:

Jesse McCord Lewis

Jesse McCord Lewis was a remarkable child, full of light and love that radiated in his presence. He brought joy to the world with his infectious and ever ready smile and was wise beyond his years. Jesse used his last few minutes on earth yelling to his friends to run, saving many lives. His bravery has inspired many all over the world. His actions were consistent with the way he lived his life; passionately embracing everything, a perfect combination of courage and faith, like a little soldier, his favorite toy. The true love his family shared was abundant and all-encompassing.

Memorial to Jesse:

Olivia Rose Engel

Olivia’s zest for life began early. With help from her adoring parents, she quickly developed an affinity for all things fun. On any given afternoon, one could just as easily find Olivia twirling in a pink tutu in dance class, developing her swing on the tennis court, kicking the winning soccer goal, drawing, painting and gluing things in art class, or honing her inner songstress in her community musical theater class. The budding swimmer also loved to join her dad or grandpa on their boats, so she could explore the world from the water.

Memorials to Olivia:

Jack Armistead Pinto

Jack was a happy, inquisitive and energetic boy. He loved being with his friends, going to school, playing sports and most of all he loved being with his big brother. He was a son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend. He was the heart of our family. We miss his huge smile, his giggles, and the excitement he brought to our life each and every day. We miss the mischievous grin on his face when he was caught eating snacks before dinner and the laughter in his voice while having a football pass in the driveway. We miss him more than words can say.

Grace Audrey McDonnell

Grace was beautiful, kind and loving. She was full of life, imagination and sparkle. She loved her family, and her big brother Jack was her best friend. They were inseparable, and she took great pride in keeping up with him as they shared adventures big and small. Grace was an artist. She saw beauty in everything and was fortunate to have found her passion early in life. Grace dreamed of living on Martha’s Vineyard and painting. She took art classes since the age of three and was truly gifted.

Allison Wyatt

Allison was a kind-hearted little girl who had a lot of love to give, and she formed special bonds with most people who spent any amount of time with her. She loved her family and teachers especially, but would often surprise us with random acts of kindness – once even offering her Goldfish crackers to a complete stranger on a cross-country flight. Allison loved drawing and wanted to be an artist, often turning parts of our house into an “art studio” with rows of pictures taped to the walls. She often drew pictures for her teachers, her school bus driver, school friends, relatives and anyone else she adored. We found a final picture that Allie had drawn for her first-grade teacher, Miss Soto, complete with “I love you, Love Allie”.

Madeleine Hsu

To our beautiful, joyful daughter, a petite princess with a big personality: We remember how life for you was a dance and a race. You loved to run ahead to the next big adventure. Always running…never walking but sometimes dancing, skipping and hopping to whatever you were going to do next. A music lover you loved to sing along with the radio and play the piano. Everything you did, you did with enthusiasm and determination, riding your bike without training wheels the day they were taken off, jumping waves at the beach, swimming at the pool. Once you set your mind to do something it was as good as done. So energetic, you ran, played and strived at 100% from the time you awoke until you fell asleep exhausted at night, only resting quietly to read books about fairies, princesses and Pinkalicious. You were an amazing little girl.

Caroline Previdi

Memorial for Caroline:

Ann Marie Murphy

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About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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