A North Texas man is mourning of death of his niece during a school shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Friday.
Jeremie Parker, a physical education teacher and coach at Sam Houston Middle School in Irving, said he got a text message Friday afternoon telling him that his niece Emilie was one of the 20 children killed in the shooting at Sandy Hood Elementary.
Parker shared his memories of his 6-year-old niece on Monday.
"Her smile would light up a room that was dark," he said. "She always cared about everybody. If she saw someone hurting she would be there with them, because she knew they needed to be helped. She always acted older than what she was. She was more of an example to adults than we were to her."
Parker and his wife, Julie, said Emilie was kind when they were struggling to have a baby of their own.
"She knew that we were struggling, and she really wanted another one, and she said, 'I'm going to help out,' and she started praying for us. She was about 4 years old, and so she was going to pray for us," Parker said. "My brother said, 'You don't understand -- she's been doing this for six months. She's been praying every night.'"
Parker's son, Keppler, was born 22 months ago. Parker wants people to know what kind of difference his niece made in his life and he wants everyone to know he knows what her final moments must have been like in that classroom.
"I can honestly believe that Emilie would be there helping her friends before she was taken from us, because that's how she was and that's who she's always been, so that's my vivid memory of how she would go, was to be there for everybody," he said.
Parker said he would follow her example and be there to help his brother and his family through unimaginable tragedy.
"I'm praying for him," he said. "I can't wait to see him and put my arms around him and give him that big hug that an older brother should always give a younger brother, because that's how we've always been."
The day after the shooting in Newtown, a package with gifts and cards from his brother and his family arrived at the Parkers' Keller home. Parker said his wife couldn't open it but, when he did, he saw Emilie's picture and cried.
Emilie's family is originally from Utah, where her funeral will be held. No date has been decided.