Stories of beauty and selflessness in the face of horror continue to trickle out in the wake of last week's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. The latest is the story of Anne Marie Murphy, an aide assigned to work with the special needs students in Victoria Soto's class.
One of those students was Dylan Hockley, who had moved to Newtown, Conn. just two years ago from England.
He was learning to read, his parents said. He loved bouncing on his trampoline, he loved seeing the moon. He loved chocolate and computer games and adored his big brother Jake.
"Dylan had dimples and blue eyes," his grandmother Theresa Moretti told The Boston Herald. "He had the most mischievous little grin."
The 6 year old died in the attack on his elementary school.
The story of the massacre has been told. There were morning announcements. The gunman came in. There was screaming and gunshots. Twenty-six people were fatally shot.
Dylan and his aide were among the least fortunate, but they died together, Murphy cradling her student in her arms, according to a statement released by Hockley's family.
"We take great comfort in knowing that Dylan was not alone when he died, but was wrapped in the arms of his amazing aide, Anne Marie Murphy," his family wrote in a statement. "Dylan loved Mrs. Murphy so much and pointed at her picture on our refrigerator every day."
Murphy, 52, was a mother herself. She had four children and was part of a big, warm family, her parents told Newsday.
"She was a happy soul," her mother Alice McGowen told the newspaper. "She was a very good daughter, a good mother, a good wife."
She was the sixth of seven children and her parents were planning on hosting a house full of children and grandchildren for Christmas Eve. They still will, though there will be one less guest.
"I've done my crying. Haven't we all?" McGowen told Newsday. "I'll miss her presence. She died doing what she loved. She was serving children and serving God."
Authorities told Murphy's father that she died shielding students from the bullets.
Dylan's teacher, Victoria Soto—a 27-year-old third-year teacher—also lost her life trying to stand between her first-graders and the attacker, her uncle said on ABC News.
The Hockley family said Soto "was warm and funny and Dylan loved her dearly," and added that they chose Sandy Hook specifically for its elementary school and that they have no regrets about their choice of location.
"Our boys have flourished here and our family's happiness has been limitless."
They credited the school's principal and psychologist with helping them navigate Dylan's special education needs.
Principal Dawn Hochsprung—whose Twitter account left a heartbreaking record of her devotion to her school, her community and its youngest students—also died in the attack. So did Mary Sherlach, the school psychologist, a mother and wife, nearly ready to retire.
Dylan’s family said that while their hearts break for their youngest son, they "are also filled with love for these and the other beautiful women who all selflessly died trying to save our children."
Below is the Hockley family's complete statement:
We want to give sincere thanks and appreciation to the emergency services and first responders who helped everyone on Friday, December 14. It was an impossible day for us, but even in our grief we cannot comprehend what other people may have experienced.
The support of our beautiful community and from family, friends and people around the world has been overwhelming and we are humbled. We feel the love and comfort that people are sending and this gives our family strength. We thank everyone for their support, which we will continue to need as we begin this long journey of healing. Our thoughts and prayers are with the other families who have also been affected by this tragedy. We are forever bound together and hope we can support and find solace with each other.
U.S. & World
Sandy Hook and Newtown have warmly welcomed us since we moved here two years ago from England. We specifically chose Sandy Hook for the community and the elementary school. We do not and shall never regret this choice. Our boys have flourished here and our family's happiness has been limitless.
We cannot speak highly enough of Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, exceptional women who knew both our children and who specifically helped us navigate Dylan's special education needs. Dylan's teacher, Vicki Soto, was warm and funny and Dylan loved her dearly.
We take great comfort in knowing that Dylan was not alone when he died, but was wrapped in the arms of his amazing aide, Anne Marie Murphy. Dylan loved Mrs. Murphy so much and pointed at her picture on our refrigerator every day. Though our hearts break for Dylan, they are also filled with love for these and the other beautiful women who all selflessly died trying to save our children.
Everyone who met Dylan fell in love with him. His beaming smile would light up any room and his laugh was the sweetest music. He loved to cuddle, play tag every morning at the bus stop with our neighbors, bounce on the trampoline, play computer games, watch movies, the color purple, seeing the moon and eating his favorite foods, especially chocolate. He was learning to read and was so proud when he read us a new book every day. He adored his big brother Jake, his best friend and role model.
There are no words that can express our feeling of loss. We will always be a family of four, as though Dylan is no longer physically with us, he is forever in our hearts and minds. We love you Mister D, our special gorgeous angel.