Oct. 30, 2013 at 8:15 AM ET
Scarlett Lewis lost her son Jesse in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14. 2012. Her anguish over the death of her six-year-old was unimaginable. But through a simple message scrawled by her little boy on a chalkboard, Lewis was able to begin her journey towards solace. Here's an excerpt.
Jesse was born brave.
Maybe if he hadn’t been quite so brave, I might still be singing my wake-up song to my precious six-year-old each morning. And maybe if he hadn’t been quite so courageous he would be here to blow out the seven candles I’ll be lighting on his next birthday cake.
But Jesse was who he was—a first grader with a happy, ever-ready grin whom God had given a warrior’s heart. He was only four feet tall, but he feared very little and never backed away from a challenge or from doing what he thought was right, be it climbing into the saddle of a horse that towered over him or stepping up to help someone in danger. Jesse had an old soul, and despite his tender years, he seemed to know that choosing to love in all we do makes the world a better place.
So, although heartbroken, I wasn’t surprised to learn from police investigators that when the first blasts of automatic gunfire echoed through the hallways of Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, Jesse didn’t run. And when Miss Soto, the first-grade teacher he loved so dearly, tried to hide the children in the bathroom and in different areas of the classroom, Jesse remained by her side.
Jesse stayed by his teacher even when the armed gunman, a mentally disturbed 20-year-old, walked into the classroom and opened fire. No one is entirely certain of the exact order of events that occurred in the ensuing minutes, but it is very likely that a bullet fragment from one of the shots that killed Miss Soto grazed the side of Jesse’s head, yet didn’t take him down.
The kids who survived reported that even with this head wound, Jesse stayed on his feet and faced the gunman. And it was then that Jesse did what I am now certain he was put on this earth to do: he saved lives. When something happened to the shooter’s gun and he was forced to stop for a moment, either to fix it or to reload, Jesse yelled to his classmates that this was their chance to escape. He shouted for them to run, to run as fast as they could, to run now! And they did. They listened to Jesse and ran for their lives. Nine terrified first graders managed to run from the classroom to safety as the gunman took aim at Jesse. Then he shot my son in the forehead and finished what he’d come to do: kill as many innocent people in the school as he could. He killed 26 in all, 20 children and 6 adults. When the first responders arrived on the scene they found Jesse’s lifeless body on the floor next to the body of Miss Soto.
That single act of anger and violence on December 14, 2012, shocked the world and plunged the idyllic village of Sandy Hook into despair. And it left the parents and family members who lost children and other loved ones that day to endure a grief so grueling and profound, a life sentence of sorrow and suffering so insurmountable, that surviving the heartache seemed impossible.
But this is not a story about a massacre, although that is how my journey begins.
It is a story about how we can face, endure, and survive the seemingly impossible, and find courage when we think we have none. It’s about choosing love instead of anger, fear, or hatred, and standing your ground, like Jesse did. And it’s about how all these choices can change your life and even the world we live in. That is why I chose to write this book—to share with you a message that Jesse shared with me: through nurturing, healing love we can mend our hearts and enrich our world.
Although my story has many moments of sorrow, it’s not a sad story—it’s a love story. It’s about my love for my sons, my family, my community, and God. So please bear with me through the difficult times because, after the tears, most of all, this is a mother’s journey of hope, healing, destiny, and even miracles.
In my darkest hours following the tragedy, my son Jesse reached out from heaven to give me signs that he is still with me every minute of every day. And in doing so, he’s taught me anew the everlasting and beautiful truth I first taught him as a child: love never ends.
Reprinted by arrangement with Hay House Publishing. Copyright © Scarlett Lewis, 2013.