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For hours, she sat in the firehouse, waiting. Her stomach clenched; she vomited in the bathroom. When she came out there was pizza and donuts, but she couldn’t eat. Soon, nuns, priests, ministers and a rabbi arrived. “When I saw all those clergy people I knew in my gut of guts and my heart of hearts that they were dead,” she recalls. “I knew there was absolutely no way they would dispatch this multi-denominational fan of clergy people were it not the case that the news would be absolutely catastrophic.”
Finally, an official announcement was made: 20 child fatalities. “That is when, for me, my whole world shifted on its axis,” she says. “It was like you are sitting in a room, and everything, including you, is turned upside down and you are sitting on the ceiling instead of the floor. You have this surreal sense of void, like all the air has been sucked out of the room.” Veronique wanted to place a blanket on Noah. “They told us, ‘No, it is a crime scene.’ They would not let us go.”
That night, Lenny took the younger children to a friend’s house. Veronique barely slept, but when she did she dreamed she was inside an abandoned house on an island covered in brown grass, walking the hallways and knocking on doors looking for Noah. She would wake from the dream screaming, and Danielle, sleeping beside her would comfort her.
Two days later, Veronique met President Obama at a vigil at the local high school, and she told him about the dream. “He whispered to me, ‘If you listen closely he is answering you,’” says Veronique. “And it really, really helped me.”
Veronique asked the medical examiners not to autopsy her son; she felt that his body had suffered too many indignities. At his funeral, Noah was dressed in a suit and tie. A Jewish friend of Veronique’s at work enjoined Rabbi Praver to allow him to be wrapped in a blue tallis, even though he had not yet had a bar mitzvah.
The family placed stuffed animals, a blanket and letters to Noah into the casket. Lastly, Veronique put a clear plastic rock with a white angel inside — an “angel stone” — in his right hand. She asked the funeral director to place an identical one in his left, which was badly mangled.
Just before the ceremony, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy came to the funeral home to pay his respects. Veronique took him by the arm and brought him to the casket. Noah’s famously long eyelashes — which she spoke about in her eulogy — rested lightly on his cheeks and a cloth covered the place where the lower half of his face had been. “I just needed it to be real for [the governor],” she says. “This was a live, warm, energetic little boy whose life was snuffed out in a fraction of a second because our schools are so defenseless.”
Veronique says that she doesn’t know the best path to stop school shootings. “If Adam [Lanza] had shown up at Sandy Hook with a knife or a less powerful weapon, he may have harmed some people but it would not have been the mass carnage we saw,” she says. She has never considered herself an activist, but the death of her son planted a seed within her: “This topic has wings for me. It has got to take flight.”