Amplifying Minds

Learning and Growing Together

Dear Joey…a note to a very special Sandy Hook child


Dear Joey,

My birthday is December 10 and my best friend’s is December 11, the same as yours. I can’t imagine not having her here to celebrate my birthday with and I know your family is probably looking at your 8th birthday without you with sadness and longing to have you here.

It says so much that your family nicknamed you Joey from your more formal name of Josephine–my dad did the same for me as a toddler–from Pauline to Paula. I love the nickname Joey–I wish I had known you personally. However, your pictures say a lot about you.

Your precious smile, your contagious enthusiasm for life and your eager willingness to play and be silly will always be missed. But is it exactly those things that will also sustain the ones who love you and wish you were with them today. You made your family smile. You made your family laugh. And you made their hearts full when you hugged them and shared your love with them.

I am so incredibly sorry your life was cut short. I also know you are in a loving, giving, wonderful home now where you are being taken care of with care and grace. Your family’s sorrow may last a long time, but their love–and yours for them–will last forever. Love transcends all.

The strength of everyone involved in the Sandy Hook tragedy has impacted the world. Teachers (and I am one) now look at our classrooms differently. (Where would my children be safer? What would/could/should I do to keep them safe? How can I keep them safe?) I keep my classroom door locked. I talk with my children about strangers more and the importance of following OUR safety procedures.

But I also make sure that worry does not permeate our lives–because I want to see the smiles on their faces like the one on yours in your pictures. I want them to be enthusiastic about life and all it has to offer, as you were. I want them to play and be silly and enjoy the laughter and love of those around them as you did. You see, you–and your friends–and your family and other families of Sandy Hook inspire those of us who are left. The pain, fear and incredible sadness you all had to endure was way more than any one should have to overcome, especially at such a young age.

But your legacy is to leave the rest of us with determination to be like the Sandy Hook community–to be brave, stoic, and strong in the face of adversity. Your legacy is inspiration to make each moment count and live, love and laugh to the fullest of each moment we have. Your legacy is a promise of strength, connecting and sharing to survive together.

Your legacy–that you left to each and every other person in the world–is hope. And I thank you and your family for that precious gift. May God bless you all.

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2 thoughts on “Dear Joey…a note to a very special Sandy Hook child

  1. The pain of loss from that time a year ago has dulled for many – some have pushed that time away. Others recall the sharpness of emotion when the news came. Your piece reminds me that we all are obligated to do everything we can to ensure that no child’s emotional and mental health needs are ignored or pushed aside so that they end up reaching a point of no return when it comes to harming self and others. Thank you for reminding us to remember that keeping all of our children safe means paying attention to each child every day.

  2. Becky asked me an interesting question yesterday as we were listening to the events at Arapahoe unfold. The news reported the teacher who was sought by the gun wielder left the building. She asked me if I would have left the building or I would have gone to meet the kid. I answered honestly–it would depend on the relationship I had with the kid and what had gone down last between us. She immediately named a kid and said, “What about that one?” I definitely would have gone to meet that one, no matter what had happened.

    Your response speaks to that–we all have to build those deep relationships with kids so that they are connected and have someone to talk to, bond with, and share feelings and thoughts. Am working on that now with one particular kid.

    I’ll never forget being in one of our schools my first year after having left one I’d been in 8 years. I got a letter from a former student who had moved to PA. He had been given an assignment in language arts to write to a former teacher that made an impact on him and was supposed to share that story.

    He wrote to tell me how devastated he was when I told our class I was leaving the school. He described how it took his voice away he was so sad…







    He was so sad he was quiet for days, he said.

    I never told him how I cried over that letter. I wish he would have talked to me instead of retreating into silence. I wish lots of things, but I mostly wish I had spent more time with him, especially when I found out he was moving. Some moments we can never relive…but the sad ones seem to come back in memories over and over.

    That letter made me even more sensitive to the kids who tend to hang out alone, or seem out of the mainstream. And, yes, we adults need to try to connect–and make sure that if we don’t, someone does!

    We simply never know how sad another person may be inside.

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