Surviving Sandy Hook: Scarlett Lewis

by Shandi Pace


The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is one that will remain in everyones memories for years to come. This is certainly the case for Scarlett Lewis, a single mother of two. She lost her youngest son Jesse that day.

On December 14, 2012, a man shot and killed 26 people, including twenty children and six adult staff. Originally, Scarlett heard bits and pieces of information before being informed that a shooting had happened at the school. She was then instructed to head to the firehouse near the school to look for her son.

On the day of the shooting, before sending Jesse off to school, Scarlett noticed he had written “I love you” on her car with snow. She asked him to wait while she grabbed her phone from inside to take a picture. “That was one of lifes moments.” It was also the last picture of Jesse.

Scarlett didnt think anything would happen to Jesse but immediately felt anxious as she drove up to the school. After running around searching for her son, Scarlett was told to write Jesses name down on a missing persons list. “By the time I had to write his name down, I had to turn it [notebook] over and put his name down at the end of this long list. Its incomprehensible,” she said.

Once Scarlett found out Jesse had been killed, she started hearing about the heroic actions he had taken to save his classmates that day. As the shooter ran out of bullets in Jesses first-grade classroom, he told his friends to run out of the building. Jesse stayed inside with the rest of his classmates and his teacher. He was able to save nine children that day.

When Scarlett returned home for the first time since the shooting, she noticed Jesse had written on the chalkboard, “nurturing, healing, love,” which she would later use for the title of her book. “Those words arent something a six-year-old normally says. That moment made me do a 180 in my entire life. I dedicated my life to those words and to spreading them because I knew that thats where we needed to go in order to survive and thrive.”

Scarlett wishes she couldve spent more time with Jesse. As a single mother, she worked long hours with long commutes, spending little time with her boys during the workweek. The weekends, on the other hand, were just for the three of them. Scarlett, Jesse, and her other son JT would spend a lot of time reading and playing games on their small farm. “I really focused on being present with them,” said Scarlett.

In order to cope, Scarlett wrote a book called Nurturing, Healing, Love and founded the Choose Love Movement, which offers free social and emotional learning (SEL) to children and adults around the world. She was also integral in introducing legislation. This legislation allows existing funding to be used to train teachers in concepts related to SEL. “What were finding now is that its more important to focus on school culture because a loving, compassionate, kind school culture can precede and even prevent a grievance from ever happening that would lead to an attack,” Scarlett said. “It is proactive and preventive instead of being reactive.”

For more information about Scarlett Lewis and the Choose Love Movement, check out her website.


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