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Newtown Mother Delivers Obama's Weekly Address Instead: Don't Let 'Our Tragedy' Become 'Your Tragedy


"Sometimes, I close my eyes and all I can remember is that awful day."

Image source: WhiteHouse.gov

Image source: WhiteHouse.gov

The mother of a first-grade boy shot dead inside Sandy Hook Elementary School sat in for President Barack Obama in his weekly address, choking back tears as she begged Americans to act on gun violence.

Francine Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son, Ben, was killed along with 19 other students and six educators in Newtown, Conn., sat with her husband, David, and urged: "Please help us do something before our tragedy becomes your tragedy."

Wheeler is the first person other than Obama or Vice President Joe Biden to deliver the weekly address since they took office. Obama asked Wheeler to deliver the address; she and her husband wrote the remarks themselves.

Wheeler described Ben as a fun-loving boy full of boundless energy, who was best friends with his 10-year-old brother, Nate.

"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,'" she said.

She said Ben "experienced life at full tilt" -- until that morning.

"Sometimes, I close my eyes and all I can remember is that awful day waiting at the Sandy Hook Volunteer Firehouse for the boy who would never come home – the same firehouse that was home to Ben’s Tiger Scout Den 6," she said. "But other times, I feel Ben’s presence filling me with courage for what I have to do – for him and all the others taken from us so violently and too soon."

She said the "tidal wave of anguish" the country experienced on Dec. 14 still feels like "just yesterday" for them.

"And in the four months since we lost our loved ones, thousands of other Americans have died at the end of a gun. Thousands of other families across the United States are also drowning in our grief," Wheeler said.

She said Americans must convince the Senate to pass "commonsense gun responsibility reforms" to make communities safer and prevent more tragedies like Newtown -- even as "a lot of people are fighting to make sure they never" succeed.

"Help this be the moment when real change begins. From the bottom of my heart, thank you," she said.

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