TODAY   |  October 30, 2013

Mom of slain Sandy Hook student: He saved lives

Scarlett Lewis talks to TODAY’s Matt Lauer about her son Jesse, who died in the Sandy Hook school shooting, and tells of the 6-year-old’s last moments, which he spent warning other children of the attack before being shot.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> a story we want to bring you that's a much more serious topic. this is a story of hope and heart break tied to last december's shooting at sandy hook elementary school shooting. we'll talk to a mom who lost her son. but first the tragic day and her boy's heroic last moments.

>> reporter: on december 14th , 2012 hell game to the town of newtown , connecticut.

>> he told us to go to the corner.

>> a lone gunman shot his way into sandy hook elementary killing the principal and school psychologist that ran toward the sound of gunfire. he then turned toward the first grade classrooms killing teacher lauren rousseau and all but one of her students. in victoria's classroom they stood in the corner holding hands except for jesse mccord lewis who stayed by his teacher's side. he shot and killed soto but then his gun jammed. law enforcement officials say it was in that moment that jesse yelled for his classmates to run. six managed to escape before lanza reloaded and shot and killed jesse . as the one year anniversary nears, newtown is trying to heal. on friday, demolition began on sandy hook elementary with a new school set to open in 2016 . a community trying to move forward but never forgetting. and jesse 's mom scarlet lewis is with us now. she has written a book. scarlet. it's nice to see you. good morning.

>> good morning, matt.

>> i read large sections of this book. i was so moved at it. things jumped out at me. for example, on the day jesse was born, you had -- is premonition the right word, do you think?

>> in hindsight it was.

>> you didn't think he was going to be on this earth or you were worried he wouldn't be on the earth a long time.

>> i said a prayer every day since the day he was born that i knew that he was a gift and i knew that he could be taken from me and please don't. i don't think i was aware that it was a premonition then.

>> but if you're thinking that every day and saying that prayer every night, how do you live your life? how do you let your child out of your sight if that's in the back of your mind?

>> it wasn't in the back of my mind. it was a prayer that i said. i didn't give it any thought. we had a great life. we were constantly on the go.

>> the last time you saw jesse was the day before the shooting and you said my last morning with jesse began like so many others. i woke him up with a song and kissed him until he giggled and we wrestled until time tore us apart. how did you hear about the shooting?

>> i was at work and one of my co-workers instant messaged me and said there was a shooting at a school in newtown .

>> and you ended up as one of the parents at the firehouse that we talked about so often in the days after the shooting and hours passed before you were given actual official news that jesse was gone. it came from a doctor, i think and you write about that. i stared at him and said nothing. i couldn't. at that moment i couldn't feel, i couldn't move. i couldn't cry. not until j.t., my other son began sobbing and i threw my arms around him and hugged him as hard as i could. you learned things about what jesse did in the classroom. tell me about those.

>> yeah, we learned -- the story changed a little bit over the ensuing months per the investigation. but ultimately we learned that jesse used his last moments on earth to call out to his friends and yell to them to run and they ran because of what he said and he saved their life.

>> you tell a story in the book that jesse used to love to go on patrol at the farm. he would go outside and protect the property and you get the feeling almost that that's what he was doing in that classroom that day.

>> i do. i knew when i was waiting at the firehouse and it was looking like he wasn't coming back, i knew that he had done something brave. so i wasn't surprised.

>> as a mom, you naturally feel pride about that. but as a mom, don't you also wish he had run?

>> absolutely. i do.

>> how do you come to terms with that?

>> i just -- i believe that jesse was put on this earth to do what he did and i believe that he fulfilled his purpose and i'm proud of him. and i believe that he left a message for me, nurturing, healing, love and i'm trying to fulfill mine.

>> i need to ask you about the shooter and your feelings and your thoughts toward him. is there possible forgiveness?

>> you know, a read a book several years ago called left to tell and in it she forgave the people that murdered her family and when i read that i thought there is absolutely no way i could ever forgive anyone who hurt my family. i would kill them and then flash forward a couple of years and i knew that forgive ps was possible and i guess i have learned that forgiveness is cutting the cord to pain. it's taking your power back. and it's giving you the ability to move forward without anger yourself. not forgiving, doesn't feel good.

>> i want to mention that proceeds from this book are going to a foundation you started. the jesse lewis choose love foundation. what's the mission of that foundation?

>> to create awareness that choosing love is a choice and we're going to go in and let kids know that they have control over their thoughts. this whole tragedy began with an angry thought in adam lanza's head and a thought can be changed.

>> thank you so much.

>> thank you.