OGDEN — A small garden, a bench and a plaque along the Ogden River Parkway now stand as a memorial to a little girl who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
The parents of 6-year-old Emilie Parker came back to Ogden this week where friends and relatives wanted to do something so that the little girl is never forgotten. Emilie's parents, Robbie and Alissa Parker — who are from Ogden — were thrilled to see the memorial.
“It was a parkway that we used a lot with Emilie,” Alissa Parker said. “She was very familiar with it. Every time we came to visit, when we'd come back, we'd often go there. We have a lot of memories at the parkway."
The Parkers flew back to Ogden this week to be with a small gathering of family and friends to dedicate this spot to their daughter.
"There are some friends of ours, a group of donors contacted them, people we didn't know beforehand, but they wanted to do something to remember Emilie,” Robbie Parker said.
It's been almost six months since that awful day, when the Parkers and other families at Sandy Hook received word their children had been the victims of a mass shooting. Twenty-six people, including 20 children, were killed Dec. 14, 2012, at the school in Newtown, Conn., in what was one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.
The shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, shot and killed his mother before forcing his way into the school and turning his gun on students and teachers there, and eventually himself.
The Parkers held Emilie's funeral in Ogden. The entire community showed its love and support of the little girl.
“As a parent you always want your children to grow up to lead a meaningful life, and to see that Emilie’s life was able to touch people and make them want to show their support and love and demonstrate what she meant to them," Robbie Parker said. "That’s helpful and meaningful to us."
The Parkers and their two daughters are still dealing with the tragedy. "We're still trying to figure out how to navigate what this means to our lives now and how to process everything we need to process, and be the parents we need to be to Madeline and Samantha,” Robbie Parker said.
One way they are moving forward is with a new initiative called safeandsoundschools.org. The Parkers and other Sandy Hook parents set up the website to help communities make their schools safer.
“We want to help them and give them tools, questions to ask, ways to get started, ways to look at your school differently,” Alissa Parker said.
“What we want to do is empower parents and teachers and communities to start layering their security to make it very difficult for people to have access to children, “Robbie Parker said.
There are "what if" exercises on the website, and there's a section on security and links to experts who can provide help in safety planning.
"This story, this event touched everyone, so if there's a way that we can use our experience to help people better their own schools in the own communities, then that's what our real goal is,” Robbie Parker said.
The community of Newtown is now trying to decide what to do with the elementary school. One proposal is to rebuild at the same site. The Parkers say they would rather see a new school built at a different location, but they'll support the final decision.
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