Newtown parents emerge from isolation after son's death in school massacre
They remember Dylan Hockley, 6, as always smiling and full of joy
Dylan was found wrapped in the arms of his teacher, according to the teacher's husband
They lived down the street from Adam Lanza, who killed 26 people at Sandy Hook school
His parents remember Dylan Hockley as such a happy child.
He was 6 and full of joy, his mother, Nicole Hockley, says.
She said he was always smiling and described his laugh as infectious. When his dad would return to their Newtown, Connecticut, home each day, Dylan would run to his father, Ian, saying,”Daddy!”
It’s been exactly a month since Dylan and his teacher, Anne Marie Murphy, and 24 other students and adults were killed by a lone gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
As would be expected, coping has been hard.
“It’s a strange moment when you wake up in the morning and for that brief second everything is as it was,” she says. “And then you realize that nothing is ever as it was – and never will be again.”
On Monday, after putting themselves “in a little cocoon,” as she put it, Hockley decided it was time to tell the world about Dylan.
“He was autistic,” she says, “but incredibly empathetic.”
“He just wanted to have fun.”
Most of all, Dylan loved to bounce on a trampoline in the family’s backyard, remembers his father.
“I’d say, ‘Go out on the trampoline!’ Ian Hockley says. “And he would always say, ‘Are you coming, Daddy?’”
Together, they would vault up on the trampoline and bounce, sometimes joined by Dylan’s brother, Jake, who is two years older.
“If I didn’t go, Dylan wouldn’t go,” Ian Hockley remembers. “He just wanted to have so much fun with me.”
Just down the street lived Adam Lanza, 20. Authorities said Lanza opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary before taking his own life. They said he killed his mother, Nancy, before the school shooting.
Asked whether they knew the Lanzas, Nicole Hockley stiffened and said no.
But they say the pain has made it impossible to even drive past the Lanza home. So they are moving elsewhere in the community.
“You can’t drive up your driveway every day and see the house of a person who took your son’s life and who brought so much pain to so many people,” Nicole said. “We are leaving that house. We will stay in Newtown, but that’s just one thing too much. I can’t do that every day.”
And they have trouble answering Jake’s questions, such as why? And will this happen again?
Nicole says these are not things an 8-year-old should have to worry about.
But Ian says it’s Jake’s difficult questions that give them the will to get involved – to try to make something positive come from the tragedy.
“We’re just focusing on getting up each day,” Nicole said.
As she puts it, the family is “trying to find a way to make sense of this by taking some action and getting involved.”
They’ve started a fund in Dylan’s name to raise money to support programs and educational aids for other children with autism and other special needs.
They haven’t learned all the details of the massacre that happened on December 14. Until now, they haven’t felt much like watching TV or interacting with the outside world.
But one detail has given the Hockleys comfort.
A few days after the tragedy, the Hockleys ran into Mike Murphy. His wife, Anne Marie Murphy, taught their son at Sandy Hook.
He revealed to her that – in the terrible aftermath of the attack – first responders found Dylan and his teacher together.
“He said that Anne Marie Murphy had been found with her arms wrapped around Dylan … that is what we had hoped for – in a very strange sort of way to hope for something.”
“She loved him and he loved her and she would’ve looked after him no matter what,” she says, fighting back tears. “To know that he was with her, and that he wasn’t alone, that gives you a huge peace of mind … to know that he was loved even in those last moments.”