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Parent Of Child Killed In Sandy Hook Shooting Aims To Help Parents In Parkland, Fla.


Nicole Hockley says she became an advocate on December 14, 2012. That was the day her 6-year-old son, Dylan, was shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School. She founded an agency called Sandy Hook Promise. And now Nicole Hockley advocates to keep kids safe from guns.

NICOLE HOCKLEY: Change has been very slow to come. There have been some very small successes along the way. But now what we're seeing - the way the students are using their voices and adding that new energy, this is a wave of momentum about to really crash into the ground in a positive way. This is going to see the change that we need.

SHAPIRO: She's talking about the high school students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Florida who've been speaking out since last week's shooting at their school. Hockley was one of several people who met with President Trump at the White House yesterday. When she stopped by our studios before she left Washington earlier today, she told me about another meeting she had recently with the victims' family members and survivors in Parkland.

HOCKLEY: I was a little nervous to meet with some of the students...

SHAPIRO: Really?

HOCKLEY: ...If I'm perfectly honest. Yeah. And I actually resisted it to start with because one of the meetings was an interview, so it was public and being recorded. And I spoke to Cameron Kasky and Sophie Whitney afterwards and I said, you know, I really didn't want to do this because I'm here just to amplify your voice. I'm just here to support you. I'm not here to insert myself into the Parkland tragedy. That is not what I do. It makes me deeply uncomfortable. But they are just magnificent people. And they are our leaders now and our leaders for the future. And the fact that I was able to connect with them and go a little bit mama bear on them, if I'm perfectly honest...

SHAPIRO: What did that involve?

HOCKLEY: Well, you know, I can't help it. These are these are 16, 17, 18-year-olds. I'm a 47-year-old mom. I - my instinct is to protect.


HOCKLEY: So I just wanted to - I wanted to hug them and hold them and not let them go and help, I don't know, just - I know what they're coming up towards. I know what's going to be hitting them. And I've got a sense of that they don't perhaps yet realize.

SHAPIRO: And so what kind of guidance can you offer them?

HOCKLEY: I was talking to them a lot about taking care of themselves - making sure they eat, taking some deep breaths because you can forget to breathe on a regular basis with this. And also to, you know, really focus on the wins 'cause there's going to be a lot of fighting along the way. And there's going to be a lot of people attacking them purely because they're using their voice, which is shameful that someone would attack someone just for voicing an opinion, especially someone who's experienced something like this.

But - and I just said to them, you know, if you keep fighting all the time, it's draining, it's negative and it can destroy you. But if you stay focused on the win and on something constructive and what you're - you know, focus on the end game, what you're trying to achieve, that's going to keep you motivated and keep you going because they've got a lot of momentum now.

And they're building up to, you know, the March 24 March For Our Lives. And they have a lot of momentum in the country behind them. And I was saying, you know, you need to also focus on March 25 and beyond because eventually the media will turn away. The spotlight will go away. And it's how you use your voices in that silence because that's when the long-term battle really starts.

SHAPIRO: I know that you've been a steady advocate every day, but has it reached a point where you hear about a school shooting and think, time for me to mobilize again?

HOCKLEY: Oh, gosh, it's - every shooting, every loss of life, every school shooting in particular, it's no lie when I say it takes me back to 12/14. I'm right back there for that Friday...

SHAPIRO: December 14, the day that...

HOCKLEY: The day that Dylan was killed. You know, and having to tell my surviving son that his brother wasn't coming home and the funerals and the media. And it all comes rushing back. And - but this shooting, when I heard about it on Wednesday, I was in California on business. And it really just took me out at the knees. And I was not able to control my emotions at all. I was just a wreck. But then I thought, I got to get down there. So I just hopped on the first flight I could on Thursday and went straight to Parkland.

And I wasn't totally prepared 'cause it's - it was like Sandy Hook all over again. And everywhere I went - the school, the hospital, the disaster center - I was just triggered on every single level to the point that I actually got incredibly physically sick on the weekend because I think my body just crashed. But it's - and even seeing the media now, the clips of the kids leaving the school and the crying, it's Sandy Hook all over again five years later. And it kills me that we're still allowing our kids to die and not taking enough actions to protect them. That's just - as a person, as a mother, that's just heartbreaking.

SHAPIRO: Nicole Hockley, thank you for coming in and talking with us today.

HOCKLEY: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Nicole Hockley's son, Dylan, was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2012. And she's the founder and managing director of the advocacy organization Sandy Hook Promise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.