Our guest blogger is Bill Sherlach, Co-founder and Board Chair of Sandy Hook Promise. His beloved wife Mary was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School while rushing to protect her students. Here he shares how Mary’s legacy inspires our mission today.
My wife, Mary Sherlach, was the school psychologist at Sandy Hook Elementary School the morning of December 14, 2012. She was one of the first people killed. It has never surprised me that she died while confronting the shooter in the front hallway.
She was safeguarding all there, as she had every day of her 18 years at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Her kids – her students – were all incredibly important to her. Same as her work family, her colleagues – I know she would do anything to keep them safe.
Mary’s Commitment to Family and Students
When Mary would come home at night she would very much be wearing her job on her sleeve. Mary’s sense of being, totally revolved around kids. Our daughters at the front of the line and her Sandy Hook kids right behind, in lockstep.
While testing and assessment were the public face of her job, Mary’s real strength was her all-encompassing concern and compassion when it involved her Sandy Hook kids and their families. Mary always wanted to get the proper process in place for all concerned. She always made sure to convey to the parents of her kids just where their best next steps should take them.
Her Life’s Work on Social Emotional Learning and Development
On numerous occasions I have had a parent approach me to let me know just how deftly Mary had moved within the system to make sure the right things happened for their child, how it helped their family, and just how important it was to their child’s development and ultimate success. That was Mary’s version of being “all in”. I couldn’t be any prouder of the way Mary handled herself in all these interactions.
Mary would be a champion of Sandy Hook Promise’s programs to protect students and educators. Our programs also align with Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) competencies for Social-Emotional Learning. These include relationship skills, social awareness, responsible decision-making and self-awareness. Mary’s work as a school psychologist has helped enhance mental health and wellness for students everywhere through these important programs.
Legacy of Inspiring Mental Health Legislation
I’m passionate about policy reform in this area as well. I love everything we do at Sandy Hook Promise. I’m especially proud of what we have achieved legislatively. Passing four federal laws since 2016 is a pretty amazing feat for any organization. And those laws, the Mental Health Reform Act, the STOP School Violence Act, STANDUP Act and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act have made great inroads to helping people, especially children, and funding violence prevention, including self-harm and suicide.
Reflections on the Ten-Year Remembrance
Every day that leads up to Dec. 14 is another haunting reminder that she was murdered while trying to save the kids at Sandy Hook Elementary that terrible day. Eleven years later, I still miss her every day – especially during the holidays which were once the most joyful time of the year.
I can’t help but think about how excited she would be to wrap presents for her two granddaughters and put them under the tree. Mary was so looking forward to doting on her future grandchildren – but they never had a chance to meet her. We, as a family, continue to celebrate the best we can, for our granddaughters, because Mary would expect nothing less.
While nothing I do can ever bring Mary back, I can still do everything in my power to protect more children from gun violence in her honor.
Please join me in making the Promise, to honor Mary’s legacy, to do everything you can to protect innocent children from gun violence.