Nicole Hockley poses for a portrait at a playground dedicated to her son Dylan, a Sandy Hook victim, in Westport, Connecticut.

26 playgrounds honor the students and the teachers killed at Sandy Hook

Updated 6:00 AM ET, Tue December 14, 2021

(CNN)From afar, it looks like any playground. Kids are playing after school on a cold fall day, as the temperature drops and a family of deer appears briefly. Similarly, a blonde-haired woman in jeans resting for a moment on one of the swings could be any mom.

But the playground is a memorial to Dylan Hockley, one of 20 first-graders killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in one of the deadliest school shootings in American history. And the woman is Nicole Hockley, Dylan's mother, who since the tragic death of her 6-year-old son has dedicated her life to preventing similar tragedies.
The playground is one of 26 that were built in the shooting's aftermath -- one for each of the 20 first-graders who died and the six educators who gave their lives trying to protect the school children in their care.
Tuesday, December 14 marks nine years since Adam Lanza burst into the elementary school and opened fire. The shooting rocked the nation, prompting a normally stoic President Barack Obama to tear up at a news conference.
As horrific as the killing was, there hasn't been a major change in federal gun safety policy in the United States. While Obama vowed that "These tragedies must end," congressional efforts he backed for comprehensive gun control failed soon after the rampage. The legislation would have included expanded background checks and a new assault weapon ban.
Meanwhile, school shootings -- like the one in Oxford, Michigan, last month that took the lives of four students -- continue, even after high-profile massacres at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe High School in Texas spurred outrage and activism.