Daniel-Barden

10

A Parent’s Worst Nightmare Realized: On the morning of December 14th, 2012, the Bardens went through their daily morning routine, assuming it would be like any other day. This day was different. What should have been a typical Friday morning of happiness at school with other first-graders turned into one of the most tragic, if not the most tragic mass shootings of American’s history. In a matter of less than five minutes, the lives of the Bardens and 24 other families were forever changed. A gunman entered the doors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School, shot and killed 20 first-graders, the elementary school principal, four teachers, and the school psychologist before killing himself. The shooter had killed his mother earlier that day. She was the first victim.

In the almost six months that have passed since the Sandy Hook massacre, almost nothing has changed in America’s gun laws. Guns remain easier to get than health insurance, a family pet, or even a bank loan. A person who shouldn’t have had guns in the first place had been taught how to shoot by his mother, who seemed to not realize the dangers of putting her son behind one of the most deadly tools of our time. Instead of preventing certain people from having access to guns, the right-wing gun lobby has stained the discussion of gun control with blood, the blood of over 4,000 Americans to be exact, since the December 14th, 2012 shooting. More people have been killed in the United State alone since December 14th, 2012 than the number of US soldiers killed in the Iraq War, and more than the number of people killed on 9/11. It took a total of 11 years to have over 4,000 US soldiers killed in the Iraq War. On US soil, it only took LESS THAN FIVE MONTHS to have over 4,000 American citizens killed, including the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre.

The pictures above illustrate the agony, the turmoil, the insurmountable pain of losing a child years before their time. These parents, along with the other 24 sets of parents that had to bury their children in the weeks after the Sandy Hook massacre, were forced to deal with something no parent should ever have to face: the death of a young child. The town of Newtown, CT had to see 19 6-year-olds and 1 5-year-old, 19 6-YEAR-OLDS AND 1 5-YEAR-OLD memorialized and then subsequently buried in a span of about two weeks. The community said goodbye to 27 people it shouldn’t have had to.

Yet the right-wing gun lobby has learned nothing. Absolutely nothing. Even though their hands are covered in blood, they still attempt to find themselves blameless in every single gun death in America. Groups such as the National Rifle Association thrive on deaths, especially by guns. If they even remotely gave a damn about the families forever changed by gun tragedies, they would help stop the insanity of what the gun lobby has become. Instead, they bleed green, and they probably will never see the light.

The picture above came from an outstanding Washington Post article, which you can read in its entirety below. The article is powerful, moving, and chilling. It will,at times, render you speechless. If your stance on gun rights remains the same after reading the article or seeing the full picture set that accompanies the article, you are cold-hearted. No gun is more precious than a human life, NONE!!!

Read the entire article, accompanied with pictures here.

This is Daniel Barden. At 7 years old he was one of the lives taken at the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. He is a family member of one of my co-workers so I post this with her permission. 

Daniel comes from a hard working family and a fund has been set up online to help assist in their time of need. If you wish to donate, information is available at www.bardenfund.com

If you wish to share your condolences with the family, you may do so at the Daniel Barden legacy page

Thank you.

Though he was only in first grade, Daniel Barden was very much an “old soul,” his family said today. He was one of the 20 children who died Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. At the age of 4, he displayed an empathy for others remarkable for a child so young. It didn’t go unnoticed - teachers chose Daniel to be paired with a special education student at his school. His mother, Jackie Barden, said she was always struck by “how unusual he was." "Our neighbors always said, ‘He’s like an old soul,’” Barden said during an interview on “Katie." He carried that kindness with him as he got older. "He would hold doors open for adults all the time,” said his father, Mark Barden. He laughed, remembering the times he’d be “halfway” across a parking lot and see his son still holding a door for strangers. "Our son had so much love to give to this world,“ Barden said. "He was supposed to have a whole lifetime of bringing that light to the world." Daniel had two older siblings, James, age 12, and Natalie, age 10, who doted on their little brother. "He was just so sweet and kind and thoughtful,” James said.

On Friday, 7-year-old Daniel, who was one of the 20 young victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School, woke up early. He played foosball with his mother. As usual, Daniel won, she said. The score was 10 to 8. His father also taught him how to play “Jingle Bells” on the piano that morning.

x

During the time of Lent, I did something different by writing a personal letter to every family affected by the Sandy Hook shooting. I never expected a response back, but today I got one from the family of Daniel Barden. I read up on every single victim to get to know what they were like. I remember reading about him that he was an incredibly happy child. I have rarely been moved to years in my life, but this small note hit it home. Rest in Peace, Daniel.

After Newtown Shooting, Mourning Parents Enter Into The Lonely Quiet

Above: Mark and Jackie Barden hug their 11-year-old daughter, Natalie, before she goes to school in Newtown, Conn., in May. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post) 

They had promised to try everything, so Mark Barden went down into the basement to begin another project in memory of Daniel. The families of Sandy Hook Elementary were collaborating on a Mother’s Day card, which would be produced by a marketing firm and mailed to hundreds of politicians across the country. “A difference-maker,” the organizers had called it. Maybe if Mark could find the most arresting photo of his 7-year-old son, people would be compelled to act.

It hardly mattered that what Mark and his wife, Jackie, really wanted was to ignore Mother’s Day altogether, to stay in their pajamas with their two surviving children, turn off their phones and reward themselves for making it through another day with a glass of Irish whiskey neat.

“Our purpose now is to force people to remember,” Mark said, so down he went into his office to sift through 1,700 photos of the family they had been.

The Bardens had already tried to change America’s gun laws by studying the Second Amendment and meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office. They had spoken at tea party rallies, posed for People magazine and grieved on TV with Katie Couric. They had taken advice from a public relations firm, learning to say “magazine limits” and not “magazine bans,” to say “gun responsibility” and never “gun control.” When none of that worked, they had walked the halls of Congress with a bag of 200 glossy pictures and beseeched lawmakers to look at their son: his auburn hair curling at the ears, his front teeth sacrificed to a soccer collision, his arms wrapped around Ninja Cat, the stuffed animal that had traveled with him everywhere, including into the hearse and underground.

Almost six months now, and so little had gotten through. So maybe a Mother’s Day card. Maybe that.

Mark turned on his computer and began looking for the right picture. “Something lighthearted,” he said. “Something sweet.” He had been sitting in the same chair Dec. 14, when he received an automated call about a Code Red Alert, and much of the basement had been preserved in that moment. Nobody had touched the foosball table, because Daniel had been the last to play. His books and toy trains sat in their familiar piles, gathering dust. The basement had always been Daniel’s space, and some days Mark believed he could still smell him here, just in from playing outside, all grassy and muddy.

Now it was Daniel’s face staring back at him on the computer screen, alit in an orange glow as he blew out seven candles on a birthday cake in September.

“Oh God. His last birthday,” Mark said, rubbing his forehead, scanning to the next photo, knowing the chronology that came next.

Daniel dressed as an elf for Halloween. Daniel grinning after his hair was cut short on Dec. 4. Daniel in a video taken a week before his death, wearing reindeer horns and carrying cookies to the neighbor’s house. “Bye, Dad,” he was saying.

Next came a photo Mark had taken early that last morning. He and Daniel had been lying on the couch, half asleep, after the rest of the family had left for school. Daniel had noticed how the sunrise and the Christmas lights were reflecting on the window, like a red-and-orange kaleidoscope. “Wow,” he had said. Mark had grabbed his camera and taken a picture of the window, and now he was searching that picture for a trace of Daniel’s reflection in the glass, zooming in, running his fingers against the screen.

“He has to be in here,” Mark said. Maybe he had taken another. He flipped to the next picture, but it was from four days later, of a police car parked in front of their house.

External image

Mark Barden, at home, thinking about Daniel. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

External image

Jackie Barden stares into the yard where Daniel played. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

It sometimes felt to Mark in these moments like his grief was still deepening, like the worst was yet to come. After the gunfire, the funerals, the NRA protests and the congressional debates, they were finally coming into the lonely quiet. They were coming to the truth of what Newtown would become. Would it be the transformative moment in American gun policy that, in those first days, so many had promised? Or another Columbine, Virginia Tech, Gabby Giffords, Aurora — one more proper noun added to an ever-growing list? The FBI had closed its temporary Newtown office. Politicians in Washington were moving on to other issues. Scariest of all to Mark, he was starting to forget little things, too, losing pieces of Daniel to the recesses of his mind, so he had started a journal to log memories before they disappeared.

“I’m always one minute farther away from my life with Daniel,” he had written one day. “The gulf keeps getting bigger.”

He returned upstairs with four photos and brought them to Jackie in the living room. “For the Mother’s Day card,” he said. She looked at one that showed Daniel at 4, his freckled arms wrapped around her neck and his face buried into hers. She gasped. She touched her neck. “It physically hurts,” she said, reaching for Mark. “Stomach, arms, legs, chest.”

She had developed a habit in the last months of what her counselor called “defensive delusions,” when she would imagine for a few hours that Daniel was away at a friend’s house. Pretending helped her summon the energy to return a few e-mails or cook dinner, but the easiness of the mental game was starting to scare her. “Is it normal?” Jackie had asked the counselor at their last appointment. “Is this something other people do?”

“There is no normal,” the counselor had said. “There are only hard days to get through.”

So now, on this hard day, Jackie stared at the photo and considered whether to release another intimate moment to the world.

“Will it make a difference?” she asked Mark.

“I don’t know,” he said.

Read More

10

Sandy Hook School Shooting: Remembering The Victims (Part I)

Charlotte Bacon, Age 6

JoAnn Bacon had bought her daughter a new pink dress and boots for the holidays.

But Charlotte, an outgoing girl with long and curly red hair, couldn’t wait, said her uncle on her mother’s side, John Hagen, of Nisawa, Minnesota.

She kept asking to wear her new outfit.

On Friday, her mother gave in. She let her wear the dress and boots and did her hair special for the end of the school week.

Hagen said his sister “was quite happy Charlotte was able to wear her dress and boots” but no one could have imagined it would be the last day they would see her alive.

Her older brother, Guy, was also in the school but survived the shootings.

Her parents, JoAnn and Joel, who had lived in Newtown for four or five years, and their extended family felt numb after the shooting, Hagen said.

“She was going to go some places in this world,” Hagen said. “This little girl could light up the room for anyone.”

Daniel Barden, Age 7

Daniel Barden was an active first grader, a budding athlete who was a member of the swim team and loved to play soccer.

He was a “sweet boy,” said Karin LaBanca, whose 8-year-old daughter, Maggie, was friends with 7-year-old Daniel. The two children took the school bus together every day, she said.

Daniel’s parents were identified in public records as Jacqueline and Mark Barden.

Friends visited the family’s Sandy Hook home Saturday morning with Rich Flashman, a pastor at the Beacon Hill Evangelical Free Church in Monroe, Conn. He said he prayed with the family.

“They’re hurting,” Mr. Flashman said. “They just need prayer right now. All they know is they lost their child.”

Ms. LaBanca said Daniel was in the first-grade class of teacher Amanda D'Amato, who couldn’t be reached for comment.

As Maggie spoke about her friend, Ms. LaBanca, 41 years old, stood close and put her arm around her shoulders. The mother gently pushed the bangs away from her daughter’s eyes.

During the rampage, Maggie hid in a classroom with her third-grade classmates for about an hour, until police brought them to a nearby firehouse. She said she looked for Daniel there, but couldn’t find her friend.

“He likes to play foosball and soccer,” Maggie said.

Ms. LaBanca, speaking of the Bardens, said: “I know that they’re just so devastated.”

Rachel Davino, Age 29

Olivia Engel, Age 6

Outside the house where Olivia Engel, 6 years old, lived, a sign asked for privacy, an increasingly common request in these streets following Friday’s mass shooting.

Olivia’s parents, Brian and Shannon Engel, also have a little boy, Brayden, 3 years old.

“It’s been a difficult day to talk to the family,” a cousin, John Engel III of New Canaan, said on Saturday night. The couple have been with their parents, he said, and attended Mass on Saturday afternoon.

An outgoing girl with a ready laugh, Olivia had “a great sense of humor” and showed insight beyond her six years, according to a statement from her family. “She was a great big sister,” they said, patient with Brayden and always the one to lead grace each night at the dinner table.

Olivia loved school and excelled at math and reading. She also had a creative streak–she drew, took art and dance classes and liked to design things. “When she made us cards, you thought, ‘Wow, that came from a first-grader?’” said Mr. Engel.

A tennis player, Olivia also loved soccer and musical theater. She was a Girl Scout Daisy, the level for girls in kindergarten and first grade, was involved with her parish’s religious education program and was learning her rosary, her family said.

“Her favorite colors were purple and pink. She loved her lamb stuffed animal,” her family said. “She was a grateful child who was always appreciative and never greedy.”

She was, Mr. Engel said, “a tremendous little girl.”

Josephine Gay, Age 7

Josephine Gay had an innocent childhood like so many others, riding her bike in the street and setting up a lemonade stand in the summer. She had just celebrated her seventh birthday Tuesday.

Josephine loved the color purple. In memory, homes in the new subdivision of large houses, about 20 minutes from Sandy Hook Elementary School, hung purple balloons on mailboxes and gates. A neighbor recalled the family as “very kind. The girls were anxious for our kids to move in. They were very welcoming.”

Dawn Hochsprung (Sandy Hook Principal), Age 47

When the first sounds of gunshots echoed through the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning, Dawn Hochsprung left the safety of her office and took off running toward the shooter, who had forcibly entered through the front doors. School therapist Diane Day, who was with her when they heard a “pop, pop, pop” in the hallway, said the principal, along with psychologist Mary Sherlach and the school’s vice principal, didn’t spare a moment before running out to investigate the noise.

“They didn’t think twice about confronting or seeing what was going on,” Day told The Wall Street Journal

Only the vice principal returned, with a gunshot to the leg. She would be the only surviving victim of the attack.

On Saturday, officials in Newtown, Conn., lauded the heroism of Hochsprung, a relatively new principal, noting she had lunged toward the shooter in an attempt to overtake him before being fatally shot. A fourth-grade teacher at the school credits Hochsprung with flipping on the intercom switch, which broadcast “screaming and crying,” through the school, in order to warn teachers.

As principal of 700 students, Hochsprung had recently instituted new security measures for the school, including visual recognition for entering. Tragically, her best attempts to make the building safe weren’t enough to keep out Adam Lanza, the disturbed 20-year-old who forcibly entered the school around 9:30 that morning.

Hochsprung’s close friends aren’t surprised by the heroic actions of a woman they remember as putting her students first. In fact, long before Friday’s senseless shooting, the dedicated educator had mulled over the “what if” of a school shooting.

“We rehearsed this and we talked about this after the Columbine incident, and ironically enough, one of the things we talked about is the reasons why people do that,’’ her friend Gerald Stomski told the Today Show. “If she was here to speak, she would say that we as individuals need to reach out as our responsibility and try to reach out to these troubled people ahead of time.’’

“I don’t think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day,” Hochsprung told a local paper in 2010 when she first started at the elementary school. As news of the tragedy emerged Friday and Saturday, parents at Sandy Hook raved about a principal who truly cared about their kids—a woman who made “going to the principal’s office” a reason for excitement, not dread. “I never saw her without a smile,” Aimee Seaver, the mother of a first grader, told CNN. “I believe she had the children’s best intentions [in mind] all the time. She was always looking out for them.”

Hochsprung was a highly motivated educator, and being the principal of Sandy Hook wasn’t accomplishment enough to slow her down. Last summer, she was accepted into the doctorate program of the Esteves School of Education at the Sage Colleges in New York. The year before, she won a school grant called Sharing the Dream from the National Association of Elementary School Principals. She had also recently volunteered to co-chair the strategic planning commission for the school district.

All the while, Hochsprung maintained an air of accessibility. She was exceptionally tech savvy, updating her Twitter account with photos, articles about education, and updates from the school. “Gifted sounds like: 7-year-old to brother w/bloody nose, ‘You have to move because seriously, blood is a biohazard,’” she tweeted in late November.

The 47-year-old was also busy raising children of her own—two daughters and three stepdaughters. At the home of one of her daughters on the day of the shooting, her family told The New York Times they were “just waiting” for news. Tragically, the news that arrived only confirmed their worst fears.

Dylan Hockley, Age 6

Dylan Hockley, from Hampshire, moved with his parents and older brother to Newtown, Connecticut, two years ago.

Former neighbours in Eastleigh, Hants., said the family moved to the United States seeking a “quieter life”. They described Dylan as a faultlessly polite boy who would write notes to neighbours thanking them for gifts of chocolate.

His mother Nicole Hockley, and her husband Ian, who is from Eastleigh live almost opposite where 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who shot dead 20 children and seven adults at Sandy Brook elementary school before turning the gun on himself, lived.

Mr Hockley, who works for IBM in New York, returned to Eastleigh only last week to finalise the sale of their former home.

He visited the local pub and told friends there how well the family had settled in Newtown, Connecticut, and showed them photos of the boys.

A former neighbour, Maria Sweet, 81, lives next door to Keeper’s Lodge, the family’s home of nine years.

“When I woke up this morning and saw the news on the television my heart was just broken,” the retired nanny said. “I recognised Dylan’s face straight away because of that lovely smile of his.”

“He was such a lovely little boy and very intelligent too. He enjoyed school. "He was always outside on my front garden playing with his little brother, Jake.

"I would often offer him a drink and some biscuits and he’d come up to me and give me a cuddle.

"He was always so polite too. Every Christmas I would get him some chocolates - he had a very sweet tooth - and he never failed to thank me for them.”

One card, sent by Dylan and his brother, reads: “Dear Mrs Sweet, thank you so much for the chocolate bars. We love chocolate. We hope you had a nice Christmas and Happy New Year and hope to see you again soon.”

Mrs Sweet added: “Ian and Nicole were wonderful people too and fantastic parents. They both had so much time for the kids and loved them so much.”

She added: “They wanted to move to America for a quieter life. I remember Nicole being really excited about going and the two boys were looking forwards to seeing their grandparents more.

"They thought it would be a nice place to bring up their children.”

Prayers were said today for the family at their local church, St Nicholas’s in Eastleigh, and advent candles were lit for them during the service.

Lay preacher Professor Roger Thornton said afterwards: “The first reaction was just horror, absolute horror, that such a thing could happen.”

Mrs Hockley, a former marketing consultant, recently described Newtown as “a wonderful place to live” with “incredible” neighbours and “amazing” schools”.

Mrs Hockley, who is from Rhode Island but lived in Britain for several years, moved back to the US two years ago with her husband, and sons Jake, now eight, and Dylan, six.

In a recent interview with the local newspaper the Newtown Bee, Mrs Hockley, spoke poignantly about the joy of spending time with her children.

Having run her own marketing consultancy in the UK she said she was now making the most of life as a full-time mother.

Asked when she was most happy, she said: “I’m a pretty positive person all the time. “Being with my children is much more rewarding than I thought it would be, coming from a big career background.

“Spending time with my children gives me a lot of joy.”

Describing Newtown, she added: “This was the place, when we were driving around, where we felt happy and comfortable.

“The schools here have been amazing, and the people in my neighbourhood are incredible. “Newtown is a wonderful place to live and we’re looking forward to being here a long, long time.”

Peter Missen, 55, a former colleague of Mr Hockley, said the family decided to move to America after Mr Hockley visited on a business assignment.

“He must have liked it there because the next thing I knew the family decamped out there permanently,” he said.

“We kept in touch via Facebook and he would upload various family snaps of himself with his beloved boys.

"Although Ian was a serious professional man he was happy go lucky and you could tell he was a doting dad. I feel completely devastated.”

Madeleine F. Hsu, Age 6 (Picture Not Available)

Dr. Matthew Velsmid was at Madeleine’s house Saturday, tending to her stricken family. He said the family did not want to comment.

Velsmid said that after learned of the shooting, he went to the triage area to provide medical assistance but there were no injuries to treat.

“We were waiting for casualties to come out and there was nothing. There was no need unfortunately,” he said. “This is the darkest thing I’ve ever walked into by far.”

Velsmid’s daughter, who attends another school, lost three of her friends.

Catherine V. Hubbard, Age 6

On a small cul-de-sac in Sandy Hook, Conn., 6-year-old Catherine V. Hubbard lived with her family in a two-story home that on Saturday had Christmas wreaths hanging from many windows.

The first-grader was among those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday.

On Saturday, the girls’s family congregated there and asked for prayers.

“We are greatly saddened by the loss of our beautiful daughter, Catherine Violet, and our thoughts and prayers are with the other families who have been affected by this tragedy,” the family said in a statement. “We ask that you continue to pray for us and the other families who have experienced loss in this tragedy.”

Chase Kowalski, Age 7

Chase was always outside, playing in the backyard, riding his bicycle. Just last week, he was visiting neighbor Kevin Grimes, telling him about completing – and winning – his first mini-triathlon.

“You couldn’t think of a better child,” Grimes said.

Grimes’ own five children all attended Sandy Hook, too. Cars lined up outside the Kowalski’s ranch home Saturday, and a state trooper’s car idled in the driveway. Grimes spoke of the boy only in the present tense.

Rest in Peace, You Will Never Be Forgotten!!!

After Newtown: Remembering Daniel Barden, 7 

Daniel understood things about life in a way that prompted many who knew him to call him “an old soul.”

He always made an effort to make other children around him feel accepted. He would take notice of children who sat alone, inviting them over to sit with him.

There was a special needs child at school who was unable to speak, yet Daniel went out of his way to talk to her, telling others, “I know she can’t talk, but I know she can hear me.” The following year he was placed in the same class as that child.

Just a few days before his passing, Daniel asked to pour himself a glass of milk. When he took such a little amount, his Dad asked him why he didn’t fill up his glass. “Dad,” he said, “you always have to make sure to leave enough for the next person.”

Upon hearing that his beloved “Uncle Carl” was visiting his family that week from Florida, Daniel excitedly said, “Yay! Carl will be here for my birthday! That means I will get another present.” When corrected by someone near that, “Just because Carl is here during your birthday doesn’t mean he will bring you a present,” he quickly explained in his cute little boy voice, “No, I didn’t meant he would bring me a present. I meant HIM being here would BE my present.”

Daniel’s family will all tell you that when you arrived at Daniel’s home, he would be the first one to run up and give you a warm squeeze. When you’d leave, he would always be there to see you off. As you’d make your way out of the driveway, there would be Daniel, standing barefoot in the cold with his Dad, waving goodbye until you were no longer in sight.

A special video of Daniel singing with his father. 

I know over the past month my Tumblr has featured a lot about the Sandy Hook shooting and in response, gun control. I apologize if not all these views are in agreement with your own, but the shooting at Newton has had a deep impact on my family. It has taught us to be grateful for how close knit and supportive our family is, work to make ourselves better, and been a terrible reminder that those horror stories you see in the media aren’t just stories, but could impact you.

Today my cousin and her husband wrote an article for the Washington Post about Daniel and how something has to be done. I’m posting it here in honor of him, and for them. I myself have been really upset about this, and I never got the chance to know him personally. My sadness over his death doesn’t even come close to what his family must be feeling, and I can’t even compare it to mine. Instead I’d just like you to consider this policy through their eyes- think of it not as a political issue, but rather as a personal one as it has become for my family. The shootings like what happened in Newton can’t be allowed to continue. I don’t know what exactly has to be done- but something has to be done.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-response-to-newtown-shootings-think-of-daniel/2013/01/29/b658933a-6a48-11e2-95b3-272d604a10a3_story.html?tid=wp_ipad

Remembering the Victims of the Sandy Hook Massacre

Daniel Barden, Age 7

Daniel Barden had woken up early on the last day of his life.

So after a game of foosball and a bowl of oatmeal, his father sat him down at the piano and taught him to play “Jingle Bells.”

External image
External image

Mark Barden, a professional musician, nestled close to his 7-year-old son on the piano bench, and looked down at the tiny fingers pressing on the keys.

“I just remember looking at his little hands and just thought his little hands were so cute and so beautiful,” Barden said.

It is a frozen memory from his last morning with Daniel, one of his last chances to touch those beautiful hands, before rage and violence burst through the doors of Sandy Hook Elementary School and threw a shroud of grief over every corner of the Bardens’ lives.

Months later, Mark and Jackie Barden are waiting for time to move the way it’s supposed to, waiting for the world to make sense again. But even as they grasp at normalcy and crave the past, the Bardens are focused on the future, and on building a legacy of good out of a life cut short.

“We have to do something,” Jackie said, sitting with her husband in a living room ringed with photographs of their children and extended family. “We feel like we have to make some good of this.”

‘Isn’t That Beautiful?’

The Bardens, like so many of their neighbors, were drawn to Newtown by the schools. They moved to town in December 2007, when Daniel was 2, and older siblings James and Natalie were 7 and 5. The couple would walk through their neighborhood, reminding each other of their good fortune.

Even as a first-grader, Daniel exhibited a remarkable capacity for compassion and thoughtfulness. He never failed to turn off a light. He sought out kids sitting alone in school. His parents would leave a store, make it halfway across the parking lot, and turn around to see Daniel still holding the door for shoppers.

The Barden kids were in three different schools with three different bus schedules. Daniel’s was the latest, and he typically slept in while Mark walked his oldest son down the road for a 6:30 a.m. pickup.

But on Dec. 14, as Mark and James made their way down the driveway in the dark, they heard footsteps behind them, and there was Daniel, in his pajamas and flip flops, awake before dawn to kiss his older brother goodbye. In the 3 ½ months since school started, Mark said, it was the only time that had happened.

Daniel had a keen sense of the world around him. He noticed flowers and bugs and a pretty sky. And on the morning of Dec. 14, he pointed at the sun rising through the living room window, with the family’s twinkling Christmas tree reflected in the glass.

External image

“Isn’t that beautiful?” he said.

“And it was beautiful,” Mark said. “So I went and got the camera and took a picture of it. So we have this picture of that window with that Dec. 14th sunrise and just a few little lights of a Christmas tree.”

An hour after sending James off to school, Daniel kissed Natalie goodbye. And after breakfast, Mark made his way down the driveway a third time for the daily school bus ritual. Mark and Daniel typically turned the walk into a game of tag, but Mark wasn’t up for it. “Can we just hold hands today?” he asked his son.

So Daniel Barden, with bright red hair and freckles on his nose and missing his two front teeth, held his dad’s hand as they walked to the school bus stop, where Mr. Wheeler picked up Daniel for the 5-mile drive along Berkshire Road to Sandy Hook Elementary.

Within the hour, Adam Lanza would be driving his mother’s car in the same direction.

'Is Daniel OK?’

Mark was working in his studio when a Reverse 911 call reported that town schools were in lockdown. It’s happened before, and it’s usually nothing. Then he heard that there had been a shooting somewhere.

“And then we got the news that there had been a report of a shooting at Sandy Hook School,” Mark said. “And I ran out the door.”

Mark regularly volunteered at Sandy Hook and knew it as a “quaint, bucolic, little down-a-country-road school.” But on Dec. 14 it was a chaotic, overwhelming scene, with scores of police cars and ambulances and SWAT teams and helicopters whirring above a growing number of crying students and anxious mothers and fathers.

Parents had been directed to a firehouse near the school to collect their children, and as Mark moved through the crowd looking for Daniel, rumors swirled that Principal Dawn Hochsprung had been shot.

“Man, this is serious,” he thought to himself and began trying to figure out how he would explain to Daniel what had happened.

But where was Daniel?

Officials asked parents who had not been reunited with their children to gather in one room, cut off from the joyous reunions outside the firehouse. James, the oldest son, borrowed a friend’s cellphone and sent a text to his father. “Dad, we’re in lockdown,” he wrote. “Is Daniel OK?”

Jackie works 40 minutes away at a school in Pawling, N.Y. But she had arrived by the time a state trooper came into the room and broke the devastating news that 20 children had been killed.

But not Daniel, the Bardens told themselves, unwilling and unable to consider the alternative.

Earlier, the police had asked the relatives still missing someone to sign in, so Jackie returned to the sheet and counted the names. Eighteen. Nineteen. Twenty. Twenty-one. Twenty-two. Twenty-three. Twenty-four.

External image
External image

She forced herself to be optimistic. Twenty victims. But 24 families in the room. Four children were missing but safe, she concluded.

“Daniel’s still OK,” she told herself. “He’s still OK.”

More rumors bubbled up that two children had been taken to the hospital, and the Bardens crafted new narratives of a miraculous reunion.

“We still had hope,” Jackie said. “We still were thinking it’s OK. He has to be the one.”

But there were no miracles for any of the panicked relatives in the room. Jackie didn’t realize it at the time, but the four extra names on the sign-in sheet were connected to the four teachers killed in the classrooms.

It was Gov. Dannel P. Malloy who finally delivered the grim news, telling those in the room that there were no more survivors.

A neighbor had collected James and Natalie earlier in the day and brought them to her house. On any other Friday, the two families would be gathering for their standard end-of-the-week pizza night, and James and Natalie waited for their parents and Daniel to show up. When Mark and Jackie arrived alone, the kids knew something was horribly wrong.

Taming Time

At first, there was only numbness, and as the fog lifted and the grief took hold, the Bardens were buoyed by relatives — dozens were camped out at the house — and then by each other.

“We were alternating our meltdowns,” Mark said. “So I could hold Jackie when she was falling apart and she could hold me when I was falling apart.”

Neighbors — the whole town, really — chipped in, setting up a meal train and emailing constant offers of assistance. And condolences came in from around the world: The U.K. France. Germany. Afghanistan.

One day, Jackie’s sister walked into the room holding a phone and calmly announced that Vice President Joe Biden was on the line. He and Mark spoke for more than an hour, bound by a common grief; Biden’s wife and daughter were killed in a car accident in 1972.

“We shared our feelings on that and he shared some insight into what to expect as time goes on,” Mark said.

External image

But time has been a cruel companion. “It seems like time is either going very quickly or very, very slowly,” Mark said. “It just doesn’t seem to be going at its normal pace anymore.”

Mark has tried to use the concept of time to conquer the anguish.

“I’ve been kind of using a mechanism, I guess subconsciously, where I have this feeling like Daniel’s not around right now,” he said. “Because there were plenty of times where Daniel wasn’t around. So this is one of those times where he’s just not around right now.”

“And then,” Jackie said, finishing the thought, “it all hits you like a ton of bricks.”

It is not the only way that time has been an adversary. Mark is haunted by the sense that every passing moment in time is as close as he will ever be to his son.

“I keep having this feeling of this distance that keeps increasing. Like in another minute, I’m going to be another minute farther away from my existence with Daniel in my life,” he said. “And that’s kind of hard to deal with.”

Jackie also worries about the passage of time. One of the Bardens’ nieces was repeating a story a few weeks ago about Daniel’s learning that a favorite cousin named Carl was coming to visit around the time of Daniel’s birthday.

“That means I’m going to get another present for my birthday,” Daniel had said, leading his older brother James to explain that Carl probably didn’t know it was Daniel’s birthday and likely wouldn’t be bringing a present.

Daniel looked at his older brother. “Carl is my present,” Daniel corrected. “Just him being here is a present.”

It was a classic Daniel story, and it both thrilled Jackie to hear, and terrified her — because the tale had slipped her mind.

“I thought, oh gosh, am I going to forget others?” she said.

“We’d hate to forget one little thing about him,” Jackie said. “So it kind of frightened me to think that was such a great memory, but it would never have come up again if she hadn’t reminded me.”

The same niece bought the Bardens a journal, and they are setting time aside to capture every anecdote they can think of.

“So we can have them forever,” Mark said.

Promoting Kindness

That’s not the only legacy they want to preserve. “I feel like we’ve been forced onto a platform,” Mark said. “We feel a sense of responsibility and feel an obligation, a sense of obligation now to do whatever we can.”

Neither of the Bardens are political by nature, but they’re reading up on complicated issues like guns and mental health, and might one day be ready to tackle those topics. For now, they’re focused simply on spreading what was good and pure about Daniel — his love of family and his instinct for selflessness.

There are photographs of Daniel throughout the house, and in many he is clinging to, or climbing on, a relative. To the extent that they have a soapbox, the Bardens want to urge parents to find time for their children, and if other obligations make that difficult, to at least make the most of the time they do have.

External image
External image

That’s why dinner at the table has always been mandatory in the Barden house. For now, that table has been filled with extended family, and Mark is bracing for that to end. “We haven’t had to visit the dinner table with just the four of us minus Daniel yet,” he said. “I don’t know when the time will be right but at some point we’ll have to do that.”

Mark’s music gigs were typically at night, allowing him to spend precious after-school hours at home with the kids. Then late at night, after work, he’d check on them while they slept.

The night of Dec. 13, he crept toward Daniel’s bed and watched his youngest son, asleep on his left side, mouth open. “I can remember exactly how I kissed his little cheek,” Mark said.

They also want to promote kindness and launched a Facebook page titled “What Would Daniel Do?” at http://www.facebook.com/WhatWouldDanielDo. In addition to tributes to their son — the eulogy that Mr. Wheeler, the school bus driver, delivered at his funeral; a video of the firefighters who heard that Daniel wanted to join their ranks and came by the hundreds to form an honor guard as his hearse drove past — the Bardens use the site to encourage small acts of compassion at the most basic human level.

The page has more than 16,000 likes, and people from throughout the country have posted stories about kind acts performed and discovered: The woman who bought coffee and doughnuts for a firehouse in New York state. The Missouri woman who helped restock a food pantry in Daniel’s honor. The Illinois woman who paid for a stranger’s meal, writing “Love from Daniel Barden” on the bill.

Starbucks bills have been paid and parking meters fed for the elderly. Quarters have been left in coin-operated washing machines along with notes memorializing Daniel. A woman and her son tucked dollar bills and crayon drawings in children’s books at their local library. “I hope in that dollar they see that there is more good in this world than bad, more kindness than greed, more love than hate,” the woman wrote.

The Bardens are also distributing pairs of green-and-white bracelets — the colors of Sandy Hook Elementary — with the message “In Memory of Daniel Barden” and the address of the Facebook page. The bracelets come with instructions to wear one after performing an act of kindness, and share the other after telling the recipient to do the same.

“He was such a kind little soul,” Jackie said. “We feel we do have to spread that.”

Back in their living room, the Bardens are, somehow, bearing the unbearable, leaning gently against each other as they watch a video clip on the Facebook page of a pint-sized Daniel singing “Mr. Sun” during an open-mike session at a local restaurant, then getting a big hug from Natalie and a bigger ovation from the audience.

External image

It is an unforgettable memory from a son who taught them the power of compassion. Now, they want Daniel’s power to live on, through simple acts of generosity that multiply from person to person to person.

“I hope that he’s remembered,” Jackie said, “as the kid that started a wave of kindness.”

Sandy Hook School Shooting: Remembering The Victims

Daniel Barden, 7, Budding Athlete

Daniel Barden was an active first grader, a budding athlete who was a member of the swim team and loved to play soccer.

He was a “sweet boy,” said Karin LaBanca, whose 8-year-old daughter, Maggie, was friends with 7-year-old Daniel. The two children took the school bus together every day, she said.

Daniel’s parents were identified in public records as Jacqueline and Mark Barden.

Friends visited the family’s Sandy Hook home Saturday morning with Rich Flashman, a pastor at the Beacon Hill Evangelical Free Church in Monroe, Conn. He said he prayed with the family.

“They’re hurting,” Mr. Flashman said. “They just need prayer right now. All they know is they lost their child.”

Ms. LaBanca said Daniel was in the first-grade class of teacher Amanda D'Amato, who couldn’t be reached for comment.

As Maggie spoke about her friend, Ms. LaBanca, 41 years old, stood close and put her an arm around her shoulders. The mother gently pushed the bangs away from her daughter’s eyes.

During the rampage, Maggie hid in a classroom with her third-grade classmates for about an hour, until police brought them to a nearby firehouse. She said she looked for Daniel there, but couldn’t find her friend.

“He likes to play foosball and soccer,” Maggie said.

Ms. LaBanca, speaking of the Bardens, said: “I know that they’re just so devastated.”

Longread of the Weekend (June 7-9): After Newtown Shooting, Mourning Parents Enter Into The Lonely Quiet
External image

Mark and Jackie Barden hug their 11-year-old daughter, Natalie, before she goes to school in Newtown, Conn., in May. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post) 

They had promised to try everything, so Mark Barden went down into the basement to begin another project in memory of Daniel. The families of Sandy Hook Elementary were collaborating on a Mother’s Day card, which would be produced by a marketing firm and mailed to hundreds of politicians across the country. “A difference-maker,” the organizers had called it. Maybe if Mark could find the most arresting photo of his 7-year-old son, people would be compelled to act.

It hardly mattered that what Mark and his wife, Jackie, really wanted was to ignore Mother’s Day altogether, to stay in their pajamas with their two surviving children, turn off their phones and reward themselves for making it through another day with a glass of Irish whiskey neat.

“Our purpose now is to force people to remember,” Mark said, so down he went into his office to sift through 1,700 photos of the family they had been.

The Bardens had already tried to change America’s gun laws by studying the Second Amendment and meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office. They had spoken at tea party rallies, posed for People magazine and grieved on TV with Katie Couric. They had taken advice from a public relations firm, learning to say “magazine limits” and not “magazine bans,” to say “gun responsibility” and never “gun control.” When none of that worked, they had walked the halls of Congress with a bag of 200 glossy pictures and beseeched lawmakers to look at their son: his auburn hair curling at the ears, his front teeth sacrificed to a soccer collision, his arms wrapped around Ninja Cat, the stuffed animal that had traveled with him everywhere, including into the hearse and underground.

Almost six months now, and so little had gotten through. So maybe a Mother’s Day card. Maybe that.

Mark turned on his computer and began looking for the right picture. “Something lighthearted,” he said. “Something sweet.” He had been sitting in the same chair Dec. 14, when he received an automated call about a Code Red Alert, and much of the basement had been preserved in that moment. Nobody had touched the foosball table, because Daniel had been the last to play. His books and toy trains sat in their familiar piles, gathering dust. The basement had always been Daniel’s space, and some days Mark believed he could still smell him here, just in from playing outside, all grassy and muddy.

Now it was Daniel’s face staring back at him on the computer screen, alit in an orange glow as he blew out seven candles on a birthday cake in September.

“Oh God. His last birthday,” Mark said, rubbing his forehead, scanning to the next photo, knowing the chronology that came next.

Daniel dressed as an elf for Halloween. Daniel grinning after his hair was cut short on Dec. 4. Daniel in a video taken a week before his death, wearing reindeer horns and carrying cookies to the neighbor’s house. “Bye, Dad,” he was saying.

Next came a photo Mark had taken early that last morning. He and Daniel had been lying on the couch, half asleep, after the rest of the family had left for school. Daniel had noticed how the sunrise and the Christmas lights were reflecting on the window, like a red-and-orange kaleidoscope. “Wow,” he had said. Mark had grabbed his camera and taken a picture of the window, and now he was searching that picture for a trace of Daniel’s reflection in the glass, zooming in, running his fingers against the screen.

“He has to be in here,” Mark said. Maybe he had taken another. He flipped to the next picture, but it was from four days later, of a police car parked in front of their house.

External image

Mark Barden, at home, thinking about Daniel. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

External image

Jackie Barden stares into the yard where Daniel played. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

It sometimes felt to Mark in these moments like his grief was still deepening, like the worst was yet to come. After the gunfire, the funerals, the NRA protests and the congressional debates, they were finally coming into the lonely quiet. They were coming to the truth of what Newtown would become. Would it be the transformative moment in American gun policy that, in those first days, so many had promised? Or another Columbine, Virginia Tech, Gabby Giffords, Aurora — one more proper noun added to an ever-growing list? The FBI had closed its temporary Newtown office. Politicians in Washington were moving on to other issues. Scariest of all to Mark, he was starting to forget little things, too, losing pieces of Daniel to the recesses of his mind, so he had started a journal to log memories before they disappeared.

“I’m always one minute farther away from my life with Daniel,” he had written one day. “The gulf keeps getting bigger.”

He returned upstairs with four photos and brought them to Jackie in the living room. “For the Mother’s Day card,” he said. She looked at one that showed Daniel at 4, his freckled arms wrapped around her neck and his face buried into hers. She gasped. She touched her neck. “It physically hurts,” she said, reaching for Mark. “Stomach, arms, legs, chest.”

She had developed a habit in the last months of what her counselor called “defensive delusions,” when she would imagine for a few hours that Daniel was away at a friend’s house. Pretending helped her summon the energy to return a few e-mails or cook dinner, but the easiness of the mental game was starting to scare her. “Is it normal?” Jackie had asked the counselor at their last appointment. “Is this something other people do?”

“There is no normal,” the counselor had said. “There are only hard days to get through.”

So now, on this hard day, Jackie stared at the photo and considered whether to release another intimate moment to the world.

“Will it make a difference?” she asked Mark.

“I don’t know,” he said.

Keep reading