Safe and Sound Schools
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An Unseen Angel: A Mother’s Story of Faith, Hope, and Healing After Sandy Hook

An Unseen Angel: A Mother’s Story of Faith, Hope, and Healing After Sandy Hook

What inspired you to write and share your story?

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School affected so many people, and I felt like there was this whole other side to the story no one even knows about. Losing my daughter Emilie completely paralyzed me. I felt such a great loss. In my search to find and understand my daughter’s “new life,” if you will, I was able to also find forgiveness and peace. Sharing that journey with the world was not an easy decision, but I felt like it was the right thing to do.

This book is incredibly personal, filled with private, painful, but also very precious memories of you and your family. Throughout the process of writing this book, what did you learn about yourself?

I learned a lot actually.  When I began writing, I had no idea what story I was going to tell through my experiences. I knew that we had had many unique experiences that were important our family and I wanted to record them for my young daughters. But as the story began to unfold on paper and I began to connect the dots, I saw for the first time the whole story. I was stunned.  The picture before me was so beautiful! To see how all the pieces connected together was amazing.  I felt very humbled by the many blessings our family had been given and how far we had come in the years following Emilie’s death.

In the book, we learn from Emilie that “Everything is connected!” This is one of the themes in your book. Can you talk about the connection between forgiveness and healing? What role has forgiveness played in your journey of healing?

In the beginning, forgiveness wasn’t even something I was thinking about.  I wanted to focus on my family and our healing, and the forgiveness part would come later.  But, of course that is not what happened. I found that healing and forgiveness went hand and hand and I couldn’t do one without the other.  

After Sandy Hook, you reveal that you struggled with your identity, the idea of being defined by tragedy. How important has this book been in helping you own your story, in helping you define you and/or your family’s identity?

Emilie was so much more than the tragedy at Sandy Hook.  Her life was full of color and light! I did not want her identity to be defined by someone else’s actions. This story gives people a look at the whole picture of what her life looked like, before and after.

You share many sweet stories of Emilie. It paints a colorful picture of Emilie’s personality. We learn that she was and continues to be a source of inspiration for many. How do you want your daughter to be remembered?

I guess I would want her remembered the way our family remembers her.  As a chatty, colorful, messy, caring, emotionally sensitive little girl that always put others before her.  She was a loving leader and playmate to her sisters, and an example of Christ-like love to my husband and me.  

How did you decide what stories you wanted to share and what stories you wanted to keep private for you and your family?

Oh, there is a whole additional book of stories we didn’t end up using for the book.  Some were by choice and some just didn’t fit the main thesis of the book. This is Emilie’s story and we had to use that as a guide to decided what stories needed to be told.  

For those who haven’t read the book, what are some of the themes readers can look forward to?

I hope people walk away understanding how connected we all are to the ones we love and that those connections are never truly lost. There is a lot of hope in knowing that. In the darkest of times, it can be hard to see the light. I learned through this experience that the light is all around us, we just have to choose to let it in.

What do you hope people will take away from An Unseen Angel ?

There is so much despair and darkness associated with the shooting at Sandy Hook and I hope this story will show people the other side. The side that can inspire us to look at the world in a different way… the way Emilie saw it. It’s a world full of color and hope and above all else, goodness.  

PURCHASE

Alissa Parker is the mother of one of the 20 children who died tragically in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. After Emilie’s death, Alissa began TheParkerFive blog as a tool to express the emotions she and her family experienced throughout the grieving process. She is also the cofounder of the Emilie Parker Art Connection, a charity helping local community arts programs for children, and Safe and Sound Schools, a touring national advocacy group that helps people take action to make schools safe.

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A Father’s Day Message from Emilie’s Father, Robbie Parker

A Father’s Day Message from Emilie’s Father, Robbie Parker

4-12 Boston Trip (44)Sometimes as a father of school aged children I feel like I spend a lot of my time on the sidelines. Whether that is cheering them on at a sporting event, nervously watching them in a recital, or complimenting them about a school project I didn’t know was due last Friday.

I often wonder: Do my children know how much I care about them? And, what else can I do to be more involved in their lives? And how can I keep them safe when I am not present?

Of course these questions are natural for fathers. We, like our counterparts, are required to sacrifice so much for the overall benefit of our children. As a parent –a father–there is nothing more important than the well-being and safety of our family.

After my oldest daughter, Emilie, was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary school, my wife Alissa and other grieving mothers from Sandy Hook met to support one another. As their relationships grew, so did their focus: ensuring the safety of children in school. The women started Safe and Sound Schools.  I am so impressed with what they have accomplished.

Like many of the other fathers, I supported them–from the sidelines. That was until I realized that this is a game I can join. This is a game I need to join.

Our children spend about the same amount of time at school each week as we parents do at work. As fathers, our responsibility to ensure our children’s safety and well-being goes beyond the walls of our own home.

As I have met with teachers, administrators, safety and security experts, I have found a group of people who genuinely care about my children’s safety as much as I do. Together we have recognized problems and found solutions that have benefited thousands of children.

If you want to know how to be more involved in your child’s life, in their safety, explore the Safe and Sound School site to access free resources. Get involved, your children will benefit from your love and hard work…whether they know it or not.

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Robbie Parker is husband to Alissa and father of Emilie, Madeline and Samantha. Robbie, is a Neonatal Physician’s Assistant, a contributor to Safe and Sound Schools and co-founder of the Emilie Parker Art Connection, founded in honor of Emilie’s love of art.

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Out of the Mouths of Babes…

Recently, one of my daughters asked me why I’ve been traveling.  I rarely left our home during their little sister Joey’s lifetime.  Naturally, this change has taken some getting used to for my family.

Thinking this was where she was coming from, I started explaining that traveling was an important part of my job at Safe and Sound…I travel to talk to people and work with experts and professionals on making schools safer.  I reassured her that our family still comes first.

I was headed down the wrong cul-de-sac, though…

“It can’t be a job, Mommy.  You’re not getting paid any money.”

I just about spat out my coffee.

“Well,” I stalled, “not all jobs pay in money, Sweetheart.  Nobody pays me for doing the laundry, cooking, or grocery shopping, right?  It’s just part of taking care of our family.  The pay off is a happy, healthy, well-fed family.”

I paused to study her face and see how I was doing.  I had her attention…

“Safe and Sound is like a home, a gathering place for members of a bigger family.  People who visit our site, or invite us to their community, or help us learn and teach others, are working for the same pay off:  safer schools.”

“Well, who’s in this family?”

Detecting a little jealousy, I said, “Well, you are, of course! You want schools to be safe, happy places, right?  That’s why you work on safety all the time at school.”

“Well, yeah.  But who else is in this family?”

Fair enough…

“Teachers, Counselors, Principals, Firefighters, Police, Moms, Dads, Students, safety experts–anybody who wants to make schools safer,” I answered.

“Like the Colonel?”

“Huh?  Oh, you mean Col. Grossman?!”  Determined to keep a straight face and NOT laugh out loud, I realized she meant Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, who I had just met at his Lynchburg, VA seminar.

“Yes, he’s one of the people working hard on making schools safer.  You know who else was there?  A whole lot of students.  They were all college students at Liberty University who want to learn too.  In fact they ran the whole day and got “The Colonel” there!”

“And they’re all in the family?”

“Yep. All of ‘em.”

-MG

I’ll post more soon on my travels and the inspiring folks I have been meeting and learning from!

 

 

 

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