On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and opened fire on the students and faculty in one of the worst mass shootings to ever occur in this country.
In the aftermath, the dead numbered 20 children, six adults, and Lanza, who turned the gun on himself after his spree had ended.
The country was struck by this horrific act of violence, the pain and trauma multiplied by the senseless loss of children who were just beginning their journey of life. The day it happened we stood frozen watching the TV screen as more information came in about the poor boys and girls who would never come home from school that day.
It was impossible to know the heart-wrenching pain that their parents were going through at the time, and it is something that I'm sure no one is capable of truly getting over.
Yet somehow, life must go on. It would be perfectly understandable for many family members and friends to give up and hide themselves away from the world. But instead, the community has done all it can to connect and provide support to each other in order to continue living without their little ones.
"You have two choices," said Rebecca Kowalski, mother to 7-year-old Chase, who was killed in the attack. "I could be in the bottom of a bottle; I could not get out of my bed. Or, I could do what's making us heal a little bit every day."
In the months that followed the tragedy, the families of the twenty children killed in the shooting reached out to one another and shared stories about their sons and daughters on a website dedicated to preserving the memory of these innocent souls.
Their stories document the quirks and interests of these kids who would never grow up, but would remain in the hearts of their loved ones forever.
"She liked to snuggle on the couch and watch movies with us. Her favorites were The Chipmunks, Lemonade Mouth, and all of the Barbie movies," reads the memorial to Josephine Gay, who had just turned six-years-old a few days before the gunman robbed her of her life.
After the shooting, a variety of support programs were opened up to the community, but it didn't stop there. The families decided that the best way to remember the little angels they had lost was to keep the parts of them alive that they could.
A series of charities and campaigns were started in memorial to these kids, and they have gone on to change the lives of children everywhere.
The programs all incorporate some aspect of the children who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook shooting, and in a way, a small part of them lives on as people continue to take part.
They include mental health support programs, group activities for charities, and gun control campaigns.
The foundation dedicated to Chase Kowalski involves his love of sports. According to his memorial written by his family, Chase "was a fun-loving, energetic boy who had a true love of life."
He ran races across Newton, loved baseball, and at the age of six had even finished his first triathlon. The CMAK Sandy Hook Memorial Foundation Inc., named in his honor is a way to offer mental health support and friendship to young kids going through a hard time, and includes a Race4Chase fun run for children to get invoked and stay active.
Others took the form of political lobbies, campaigning for changes to mental health care reform and gun control legislation.
Mark Barden pleaded with the country alongside former president Barrack Obama to take this tragedy serious so as not to waste the sacrifice of the poor children who were lost in the attack. His own son, Daniel, was among those who were killed in the shooting.
Barden is the co-founder of one of the most well-known non-profit organizations that arose form the Sandy Hook massacre. Sandy Hook Promise is dedicated to stopping future school shootings by developing mental health and wellness programs to education systems across the country.
Daniel also has his own memorial program, to inspire empathy among young children. Called "What Would Daniel Do?", it promotes little acts of kindness in day-to-day life that make a huge difference to kids suffering from loneliness.
As the five year anniversary of the tragedy is upon us, we should look towards the good that has been accomplished in the name of these boys and girls who have left us, but have given us reasons to love one another all the more.