Parent of Sandy Hook victim reflects on Uvalde mass shooting | #specialneeds | #kids

Michele Gay lost her daughter Josephine in the Sandy Hook school shooting. Now, her non-profit ‘Safe and Sound Schools’ works to prevent similar tragedies.

UVALDE, Texas — Michele Gay is one of the few people who knows what the families in Uvalde, Texas are experiencing. She lost her daughter, Josephine, in the Sandy Hook school shooting on December 14, 2012.

At least 21 people were killed Tuesday at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

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“This one is very, very especially difficult for all of us because it’s just so hauntingly familiar,” said Gay. “On a day like today, we are really calling upon that little spirit, that feisty little spirit.”

That spirit is her daughter. She was 7 years old and had a magical way of bringing people together. 

“I was texting one of my friends back in Newtown saying, ‘I don’t know, maybe it was wishful thinking we would never see a tragedy of this magnitude again,'” she said.

We first met Michele in 2019. A year after the Santa Fe shooting, she came to Houston. Her non-profit, “Safe and Sound Schools,” hosted a school safety summit. 

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Their message was different. The moms made a decision not to jump in the debate on guns, but instead on what they call comprehensive school safety.  

“What have you got? What’s in front of you? Who is ready to help? What resources can we pull together today, right now, while those other conversations continue,” said Gay.

This year, the mission is expanding. Focusing on safety for students with special needs. Inspired by Josephine who had autism. 

“Anybody who has any special consideration that we need to remember in times of crisis, we need to plan for in times of crisis – just like Joey,” she said. 

It’s her memory that this mom stays focused on

“It’s difficult to shout down those voices in our heads that say you might as well throw in the towel, or it’s just not getting any better,” she said.

Every time there’s another school shooting, it’s her daughter who gets her through the darkest of days. 

“I’ve caught myself several times having those internal conversations and really called upon Josephine to interrupt them and remind us that we made commitments, we made promises to her,” said Michele.

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She’s planning to come back to Texas soon to work with more schools and tells us she does plan to reach out to the families in Uvalde.

“I think it’s important for us to realize where we are in this moment and honor this moment and send our love and support to the families to the communities right now,” she said. “I think all of us have a sense of urgency about getting into the community, returning to our own communities and asking tough questions and getting to work, making sure we understand what is in place to prevent something like this, what is in place to respond to something like this if, God forbid, it comes to our community.”

For more information and resources can be found on Safe and Sound Schools’ website.

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