NEW YORK — Finding her two small children stabbed to death in her Upper West Side apartment last year, Marina Krim felt robbed of her entire existence.
But in a rare public statement Wednesday evening at the first benefit for her nonprofit, the Lulu and Leo Fund, Krim described a discovery in the weeks after the tragedy that has helped guide her back to life.
Wandering through her hometown of Manhattan Beach, Calif., in a daze, she noticed a piece of art under scaffolding at a construction site: the silhouette of a little boy and the pop of colorful hearts.
"After such an intense trauma, I felt like my brain wasn't operating normally," she said. "How was it possible that people were just walking by this inspiring art and not noticing it?"
She said she felt it was her children shouting out messages to her. The art, she said, allowed her to start healing.
"There was still a way to connect with Lulu and Leo, through art, beauty and creative thinking," Krim said.
The fund aims to support innovative art programs for children. Late last month it announced its first grant would go to Free Arts NYC, a nonprofit that provides under-served children and families with mentoring programs through the arts. The fund specifically supports the Free Arts "Parents and Children Together with Art" program, where families work to increase communication and teamwork.
The family's nanny, Yoselyn Ortega, has been charged with murder in the deaths and pleaded not guilty. Her lawyer unsuccessfully challenged a judge's ruling that she is mentally fit for trial. The Oct. 25, 2012, killing shocked the city, where tens of thousands of nannies are employed by parents who entrust them with their children. Reports of serious violence by caregivers against children are exceedingly rare.
On the day of the killings, Marina Krim left to go pick up her third child, Nessie, from a swimming lesson. She returned home to their darkened apartment and discovered Lulu, 6, and Leo, 1.
The nanny was found on the bathroom floor with self-inflicted stab wounds to her neck, prosecutors said. The children's father, Kevin Krim, a CNBC digital media executive, was away on a business trip. Police met him at the airport on his return and escorted him to the hospital where his loved ones had gathered.
"We had every reason to feel alienated from the world after this happened," Kevin Krim said at the benefit. "And to really, truly survive and to live again, we had to have a reason to live."
The couple has found some solace in each other, their children and the outpouring of support. But the fund is also helping the family heal, he said.
"It's impossible, really, to give up on the world, when you're trying to help it," he said.
While the criminal case against Ortega moves slowly through the courts, the Krims are trying to live their lives.
The couples uses the fund's Facebook page to post updates on how they are doing, an intimate and yet private way of dealing with the public interest in their lives. Hundreds of strangers have posted messages to the couple; nearly 35,000 people like the page. They, in turn, have written about traveling around during the summer, returning to New York, and the arrival of their new baby boy Felix in early October.
On Wednesday, Marina Krim said a friend tracked down the Corona, Calif.-based artist who made the stencil of the boy with hearts, Wil Reyes. He created an original poster for her. A print of the silhouette was also for sale at the benefit.
"In a time of complete darkness, I felt some hope," Marina Krim said.
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