On Saturday, the mother of a young victim of the Newtown massacre, filled in for President Obama on his weekly radio and Internet broadcast. Francine Wheeler said the presence of her son Ben, who was six years old when he was killed along with 19 other first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, gave her the courage to speak out. "Thousands of other families across the United States are also drowning in our grief," she said in a push to get a gun control bill through Congress. "Please help us do something before our tragedy becomes your tragedy." Wheeler is the first person other than Vice President Joe Biden to deliver the address.
Her husband, David Wheeler, sat silently next to her as she made the recording in the White House Library. Both wore the small green pins that have become a symbol of the shooting:
Hi. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not the President. I’m just a citizen. And as a citizen, I’m here at the White House today because I want to make a difference and I hope you will join me.
My name is Francine Wheeler. My husband David is with me. We live in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.
David and I have two sons. Our older son Nate, soon to be 10 years old, is a fourth grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our younger son, Ben, age six, was murdered in his first-grade classroom on December 14th, exactly 4 months ago this weekend.
David and I lost our beloved son, but Nate lost his best friend. On what turned out to be the last morning of his life, Ben told me, quite out of the blue, “ I still want to be an architect, Mama, but I also want to be a paleontologist, because that’s what Nate is going to be and I want to do everything Nate does.”
Ben’s love of fun and his excitement at the wonders of life were unmatched His boundless energy kept him running across the soccer field long after the game was over. He couldn’t wait to get to school every morning. He sang with perfect pitch and had just played at his third piano recital. Irrepressibly bright and spirited, Ben experienced life at full tilt.
Until that morning. 20 of our children, and 6 of our educators – gone. Out of the blue.