As families struggle to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., some are clinging to bits of solace from the grim details that emerge.
The family of six-year-old Dylan Hockley, one of the 20 children killed in the shootings last Friday, revealed in a statement Monday that their child's favorite teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary cradled him as they both died in a hail of bullets.
"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’s family said in a statement. "Dylan loved Mrs. Murphy so much and pointed at her picture on our refrigerator every day."
Murphy, 52, a mother to four children with her husband, Michael, was a special education teacher in Dylan’s classroom at Sandy Hook. She was a 14-year resident of Sandy Hook and formerly of Katonah, N.Y., according to her obituary.
"She will be remembered for her love of the arts, walks in the outdoors and most importantly: her family," her obituary said.
Authorities reportedly told Murphy's parents, Hugh and Alice McGowan, that their daughter helped shield some of her students from the rain of bullets.
“A first responder said she was a hero,” her 86-year-old father told Newsday. “You don’t expect your daughter to be murdered. That’s sort of a shocker.”
Murphy’s mother, also 86, said she grabbed her rosary and cried when she got the news.
Dylan’s parents, Ian Thomas, who is British, and Nicole Marie (Moretti), both 42, had lived in England for 18 years before moving to a house on the same street as Nancy Lanza, the gunman's mother and first victim, in January, The Telegraph (U.K.) reported. They said they chose Newtown specifically for the tight-knit community and the Sandy Hook school.
“We do not and shall never regret this choice,” they said. “Our boys have flourished here and our family’s happiness has been limitless.”
The family also praised other staffers and teachers who died at Sandy Hook.
"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 family added. "Dylan's teacher, Vicki Soto, was warm and funny and Dylan loved her dearly."
Both Hochsprung, 47, the school principal, and Sherlach, 56, the school psychologist, died while lunging at the gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, in an attempt to overpower him. Soto, 27, a first-grade teacher, shielded her students and ushered them into a closet, putting herself between them and the gunman. She was found huddled with the children.
"Though our hearts break for Dylan, they are also filled with love for these and other beautiful women who all selflessly died trying to save our children," the family said.
In the statement, the Hockley family said Dylan loved to cuddle, bounce on his trampoline and play computer games. He also looked up to his older brother, Jake. He was learning to read and "was so proud when he read us a new book every day."
"We will always be a family of four," they said. "He is forever in our hearts and minds."
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