Ana Márquez-Greene was six years old when she was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. This Sunday, as her mother Nelba woke to news of the Orlando shooting, the memories, fear, and grief came rushing back to her. "My first reaction was visceral," Márquez-Greene wrote on the Facebook page dedicated in Ana's honor, in an open letter to Orlando victims' families, which quickly went viral. "I know the horror of waiting to hear ... I am reliving being one of the family members in wait."
But her motto, "love wins" ― which has motivated and inspired her work in compassionate community building across the country through The Ana Grace Project ― helped Márquez-Greene share her condolences and true sympathy with the families of the Orlando victims. The letter shows the astonishing power of compassion, which has become Márquez-Greene's life's work, and its ability to ease even the deepest pain. An bittersweet network of victims' families is coming together in the wake of this latest mass shooting, which highlighted the desperate need for compassion in this country.
I was sleeping in because we just got back from working in Canada. My friends came over for our scheduled morning walk. I didn’t have my phone. I came home and my phone was buzzing like crazy. “Are you okay? “Where are you?” “I’m praying for you!” “I love you!”
I still didn’t understand. I no longer have a personal Facebook and the TV wasn’t on. I don’t sign in to the news. I saw it on Twitter and watched the numbers rise in real time. First some dead, then multiple, then 20 and now 50.
My first reaction was visceral. I know the horror of waiting to hear. A helicopter flew overhead. It made everything too real. Too familiar. I panicked. I called my friend. I cried. Fifty people. I am reliving being one of the family members in wait.
And then she told me. An attack against people who are gay. A specific group. Just like last year around this time. The 17th of June. A Black church. My head is spinning.
“I can’t go to Wisconsin.”
I am tired. I just got back from Canada. And tomorrow is Wisconsin but now I am scared. I want to crawl up in a fetal position on the sofa and watch Harry Potter movies with my son. Perhaps I will build a bullet proof barrier around my house and just order groceries from Peapod all summer. Or for the rest of our lives.
But my message was and is and always will be “love wins.” And this is why I must go to Wisconsin. How do I tell my son that fifty people all died the way his sister did? And in one of our favorite places: Orlando, Florida.
I am waiting for the church to be as outraged about gun violence as much as we seem to be about who pees where in a Target bathroom.
I have one message for those families in Florida:
I am sorry. I am so, so sorry. I am sorry that our tragedy here in Sandy Hook wasn’t enough to save your loved ones. I tried and I won’t stop trying. Don’t you dare even listen to even ONE person who may insinuate that somehow this is your loved ones’ fault because they were gay or any other reason. Nor is it God’s wrath.
They did that to us on Sandy Hook too. And it broke my heart. You will receive love from a million places. Embrace it. Take good care of yourself. This will be a forever journey. Some ugly will come your way too. Delete. Ignore. Let it go.
Your loss today will bring out the worst AND the best in all of us. May we commit to being our best selves in honor of what you now bear.
I am going to Wisconsin to spread the message that love wins. In honor of your loved ones. Because hate, ugly, evil and prejudice cannot silence love, courage, good.
I don’t know what to tell my son. But know I will commit to learning about each and every one of your loved ones. And we will commit as a family to learning about their lives and the legacies you build in their memory. But I am so sorry. Because you shouldn’t have to be doing this. You should be planning summer outings to the beach and barbecues and birthdays and graduations. And I know it will never be the same.
My son will learn about your loved ones. And we will not forget. We will say their names out loud. We will remember your children. As you remembered and learned about ours.
And dear friends with generous hearts — please WAIT to donate until you know for sure that your hard earned dollars will be received by VICTIMS... and not by individuals, groups and organizations designed to benefit from tragedies. America’s mass shootings should not be the United Way’s pay day or a specific town’s funding source to build a senior center. Millions were poured in to Sandy Hook. Very little actually reached us. And victims of gun violence will have a lifetime of need. Before you give — ask where your dollars will go. Specify that you want it to go to victim families.
Friends — you are either a part of the problem or a part of the solution. Victims cannot bear the burden of this alone. Please help.
Bring up gun violence in your house of worship and/or community group. Join Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America or any other group like it that speaks to you.
If you know someone who shows extreme hate of a group or individual, has access to weapons and you feel there is inherent risk of harm — please call your local police immediately. Let’s be more than bystanders. Let’s save lives.
From Sandy Hook. From Ana and Isaiah’s mom and dad.
We love you. We are so very heartbroken.