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Dylan Hockley: The Butterfly Effect

Photo of Dylan Hockley

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Our guest blogger is Nicole Hockley, co-founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise. She’s the mother of Dylan, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy on December 14, 2012.

11 years ago, I sent my son to school, and he never came home.

My beautiful butterfly, Dylan, just six years old at the time, was shot multiple times in his Sandy Hook Elementary School first-grade classroom alongside 19 of his classmates and six educators, in one of the worst school shootings in history.

I call Dylan my butterfly, because of how he loved to flap his arms when he got excited. Full of innocence and joy — unadulterated joy. I once asked him why he did this, and he said, “Because I am a beautiful butterfly.”

My Dylan was autistic and a flapper. For me, he was that beautiful butterfly and always will be. He was full of hope and promise. I carry his spirit with me wherever I go, whatever I do. It is what fuels my gun violence prevention work and mission at Sandy Hook Promise.

There’s a saying that a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a hurricane halfway around the world. I believe if one butterfly can cause a hurricane, imagine if the millions of people who want to protect their families and communities from gun violence choose to flap their wings too.

We can do a lot more than cause a hurricane. Together, we can prevent violence in our schools and communities and save lives. Please watch my video from our ten-year remembrance. It’s a story I will cherish sharing forever.

My Life’s Mission

Whether it’s one year, two years, now 10 and later 20, nothing will ever change how much we miss him, how much we love him, or how much we hurt without him in our lives.

I often tried to minimize my pain, but the loss of a child is just incomparable. It’s a feeling that part of you has been slashed from your existence. No matter what I do, even as I work to avert school shooting threats and save lives, I know I will never get Dylan back. The hole in my heart can never be filled.

That’s why my life’s mission now is to make sure no other parent lives with this unbearable pain — with a heart that never stops bleeding.

With your attention and support, we can keep making that happen and continue to make children’s lives a priority and our schools the safe havens we hope for them to be.

Gun Violence Prevention Works

I know prevention works because we teach youth — and the Trusted Adults around them — how to do this. Our Know the Signs program and training have averted 16 credible school shooting plots. Additionally, more than 232 acts of school violence involving a firearm. And we’ve helped thousands of students receive the mental health support they needed when feeling overwhelmed or suicidal.

Gun violence prevention works, and it’s the legacy of Dylan and all the other precious lives taken by gun violence.

It’s not just our own research and experience that shows how effective knowing the warning signs can be. Research of averted plots against schools found they were all prevented because someone who saw a warning sign reached out for help.

Gun violence and school shootings shouldn’t happen. They are preventable — if we care enough to act, learn the warning signs of someone planning self-harm or violence to others, and intervene.

Make the Promise

Prevention is a simple yet essential part of the solution and one that we can all be part of. Only if someone had said something, my son and so many other children might still be with us today. Knowing the signs and reaching out for help may sound like too small of action for such a huge problem, but it’s proven to work.

This critical mission relies on compassion and dedication from people like you. Join the nearly 10 million people who have already made the promise to protect children from gun violence. One simple, meaningful action makes an impact.