Six-year-old Sandy Hook Elementary student Jack Pinto was laid to rest in a replica of the jersey worn by his hero, New York Jets wide receiver Victor Cruz. Cruz went on to inscribe Jack’s name on his cleats before playing his next game. Jack’s best friend John wrote him a goodbye letter that said in part “I will talk to you in my prayers. I love you.” Nicely said, John. We all love Jack Pinto. And many thanks to Victor Cruz.
Charlotte Bacon, like many little girls, loved the color pink. According to her uncle it was more than just a passing affinity it was “A passion. And by a passion, I mean an addiction.” She trained in Tae Kwon Do. Charlotte’s favorite movie was “Brave”. I hope she got to see it a bunch of times.
Daniel Barden wanted to be a firefighter, like his cousins in New York. Word is, he liked playing drums as well. Daniel was also an accomplished athlete, swimming and soccer being his favorite sports. An avid reader, Daniel was described as an old soul by friends of his family. I hope we all get a chance to meet that soul, in some way.
Olivia Engel actually loved going to school! She even had a good relationship with her three year old brother. She had a dog named Petey. She was into theater, dancing and singing and was preparing for her role as an angel in a local presentation of the Nativity. She was also in Daisy Scouts. All kids should have such active days.
Noah Pozner had high aspirations. He wanted to be a soldier, a doctor, and a taco factory manager. He loved rainbows. (Me too, li’l bro.) His twin sister Arielle drew a picture of her mother smiling and handed it to President Obama during his visit to the site of the tragedy. There’s not a lot of comfort to be had here-but that picture’s probably about the best any of us could do.
How’d you like to be a painter, living on Martha’s Vineyard? That’s what Grace Audrey McDonnell had in mind for her future. She enjoyed playing dress-up, especially in pink, just like her classmate Charlotte Bacon. Maybe her wings are pink.
6 year-old boy Jesse wrote “I love you” in the frost of his mother’s car door before running inside the school in anticipation of that days’ project of building gingerbread houses. Jesse is said to have been attempting to lead his classmates to safety during the attack, when he fell to the gunman’s assault. There’s something enlightened about that.
Catherine Hubbard was a freckly little redhead who loved animals passionately. Bet she petted and hugged a lot of little furballs in her time. Those pets are ripples of kindness that will spread forever.
Jessica Rekos was a cowgirl. Upon turning ten, she would have had her very own horse to groom and ride and love. In preparation, Jessica was to have received a hat and spiffy cowgirl boots for Christmas. She was a big sis too, with two little brothers who looked up to her. Good memories will be their guide.
Little Josephine Gay just turned 7 on December 11. Her favorite color was purple. She’s described as having a “joyful and giving spirit”, so Christmas is the perfect time to remember her in prayer and/or thought. She looked like the little girl from “Monsters Inc.”, remember the one who thought Sully was a big teddy? This enterprising young lady often set up lemonade stands in her neighborhood during the summer.
James Mattioli was not quite 7 yet. His older sister, in whom he saw the sun rise and set, was helping him to be a better reader. Ham sandwiches from Subway were a favorite meal. “J”, as he was called, wasn’t afraid to hug his friends. James was pretty good at math too, an attribute which I admire.
Top level athletes can be spotted at an early age. Chase Kowalski was one such prodigy. The 7-year-old was already running road races and training for a mini-triathlon! Bicycles and baseball were also favorite pursuits. Something tells me he would’ve been a record breaker.
Born in San Diego, Avielle Richman carried on a noble tradition-she was a storyteller. She also loved music, archery and of course, kung fu. Would love to have seen her face if she ever saw a Michelle Yeoh flick. I’ll watch one for you, Avi.
Also musically inclined was Benjamin Wheeler. He already had perfect pitch. The energetic young pianist once sprinted onstage to complete a recital then sprinted back. He and his family had just moved to Newtown last April. Ben wanted to be either an architect or a paleontologist. Cool professions, cool kid.
Emilie Parker carried her pens and markers and paper wherever she went, for moments of spontaneous creativity. Her artworks are priceless treasures, far as I’m concerned.
Ana Marquez-Greene was the daughter of jazz musicians. Like Benjamin Wheeler, Ana had only recently moved to Newtown, coming from Winnipeg. Ana always gave her artwork to others as gifts. If you’re a parent or an uncle or aunt or cousin or grandparent, you probably have a few gifts like that, and you probably have never seen anything more masterfully rendered in your life.
Dylan Hockley was originally from England. When he learned he would be moving to the U.S, he could not wait to get here. A special needs student, Dylan was learning to read. Being a model student, he was making good progress. He shared with his older brother Jake and his father a passion for martial arts. Rei.
Not much is known about 6-year-old Madeleine Hsu, except that she was upbeat and kind and that her family had only lived in the area for a few years. I hope they were joyous years.
Caroline Previdi loved to draw and dance. She was training in jazz and ballet. She was such a hardcore New York Yankees fan, she once refused to go into Fenway Park in Boston. A good fan to have, that one.
Allison Wyatt, another young artist, patiently taught her younger sister Lauren how to ride the school bus. She always wore ribbons and berets in her hair. If Allison had a snack, it wasn’t unusual for her to offer some of it to complete strangers.
Teacher Victoria Soto put her students in a closet and stood as a barrier between them and the gunman during the attack. So many mourners attended Victoria’s funeral that many had to sit outside and listen to the service on loudspeakers. Her college roommate said this: ““When she hugged you, she put her whole heart and soul into every hug she gave.” Maybe we should all do that.
Rachel D’Avino, 29, was a behavioral therapist -a vocation which requires immense, selfless loving kindness- and teacher’s aide. Like Victoria Soto, Rachel heroically shielded a student during the attack. It’s amazing how peaceful teachers can take on the role of great warriors in merely doing their jobs.
Principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung had been Sandy Hook’s principal for almost two years. She was still pursuing her Ph.D, and was a grandmother. Hochsprung was in the process of implementing a security system at the school. With the children she fiercely thought of ashers in mind, she fearlessly stood strong when facing the attacker.
School psychologist Mary Sherlach was the mother of two adult daughters. She was a classic rock fan who loved to sing and dance to Eagles tunes, often persuading friends and family members to join her in impromptu singalong and dance.
Lauren Rousseau was substituting for a teacher who was on maternity leave. She loved cats. She had baked Hobbit cupcakes in anticipation of seeing the film. That’s how you live life to the fullest.
Please join me in celebrating their lives and saying goodbye.
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