The parents of two young children killed in the Sandy Hook tragedy are speaking out about doing more nationally to prevent future school shootings after another deadly carnage at an Oregon community college.
At least nine people were killed and nine others injured when a gunman opened fire in a Thursday morning writing class at the Umpqua Community College campus in Roseburg, Oregon. The shooter, identified as 26-year-old Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Sandy Hook parents Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley empathize with the families of the victims in Oregon. They experienced similar losses when their children, Daniel Barden, 7, and Dylan Hockley, 6, were fatally shot along with 24 others at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012. The guman also shot and killed his mother before ultimately taking his own life.
"Our hearts break for the shattered families and community of Umpqua Community College after yesterday’s horror," Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley said in a statement Friday. "We understand their pain now and in the days and years to come and we promise to support them in any way possible. Our thoughts remain with them, the loved ones killed, those injured, and the countless traumatized."
Hockley said she can't stand to watch the hauntingly familiar images coming from Oregon.
"Absolute shock that it had happened again," Hockley told NBC Connecticut. "My heart is so with them, knowing what they are going through, knowing what’s coming down the line for them. It doesn’t get any easier I’m afraid to say. It’s one hard day after another.”
Hockley says she's tired of the political fights the shootings spark. But, she adds, what is most frustrating is that most of these tragedies might have been prevented.
That’s why this Sandy Hook mom and others launched the group Sandy Hook Promise.
Barden and Hockley are managing directors of Sandy Hook Promise, "a national movement of parents, schools and community organizations engaged and empowered to deliver gun violence prevention programs and mobilize for the passage of sensible state and national policy," according to the website.
"While our hearts continue to break, our spirit never will. Nor will our anger in knowing that this was yet another preventable tragedy," Barden and Hockley said. "We know that as we learn facts about this tragedy, our nation will once again enter the endless debate around gun control and gun freedom. The debate goes on, but our children need us now. What saddens us is that we also know that, as usual, facts will come to light about the warning signs and signals the shooter gave to others, who then took no action to intervene."
The Sandy Hook Promise program called “Say Something” teaches kids, parents, and school staff how to spot an at-risk person and how to report it.
Hockley says most school shooters displayed warning signs. If someone had noticed and taken action it could have prevented the horrible result, she said.
“That’s what keeps me going every single day," Hockley said. "This is a long, long, hard journey but there is nothing in this world that’s going to stop until we’ve saved more people.”
The “Say Something” program has been in the trial phase. Now the goal is for it to spread across the country and a “Say Something Week” is planned to start Oct. 19.
Since the fatal Sandy Hook shooting, 483 people have signed the Sandy Hook Promise, which obliges pledges "to do all [they] can to protect children from gun violence by encouraging and supporting solutions that create safer, healthier homes, schools and communities."
"While we at Sandy Hook Promise believe our country needs to make progress on policies for appropriate firearm access, we also believe that we must change our attitudes and behaviors on passively accepting daily threats and violence, believing ourselves immune to having this sort of tragedy in our own community and believing we are helpless to prevent it in any case. None of us are immune and none of us are helpless," Barden and Hockley said.
Click here to read the full statement from Barden and Hockley.