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Parents remember their 6-year-old daughter, who died at Sandy Hook


Time now for StoryCorps. Next week is the 10th anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. A gunman killed six educators and 20 children, including Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel's 6-year-old daughter Avielle. In 2017, Jeremy and Jennifer talked at StoryCorps. Jennifer wanted us to share that conversation.

JENNIFER HENSEL: Avielle was not supposed to be in school that day. We had already made plans to go to New York City to see the Rockettes. But they were building gingerbread houses in the classroom that day, and she really wanted to go. I remember my phone rang with the emergency alert from the schools.

JEREMY RICHMAN: It was just chaos trying to figure out what was going on.

HENSEL: I remember just searching and searching for her.

RICHMAN: We organized a list for families that couldn't find their kids. There was 29 or so on there. They found a couple more kids that had ran, so that made it 26. And then it just stayed at 26. And so then I knew.

HENSEL: You grabbed my shoulders, and you looked me in the face and said, I need to tell you this before you hear it from someone else. Avielle is probably dead. And I said, I can't leave until I see her. I'm her mom, and that's my job. I have to see her.

RICHMAN: What do you miss most about Avi?

HENSEL: The weight of her arms on my body when she's hugging me and her cheeks. It was hard for months. And it's turned into years, and it's hard all the time.

RICHMAN: I'm always thinking about this, every waking moment and a lot of times while I'm sleeping, that - it's always there. Right away, we were sure we were going to find some way that we could have kids again. And...

HENSEL: And now we have two.

RICHMAN: What are your biggest fears about raising them?

HENSEL: Even though it's statistically not probable, I fear that they will be shot. But I've never really been ruled by fear. I will do my best to give them the tools to not live in fear. And I love you.

RICHMAN: I love you too.


MARTIN: Jennifer Hensel and Jeremy Richman recall their daughter, Avielle Richman, killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Just over a year after this conversation was recorded, Jeremy Richman died by suicide. He was 49.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. This conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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