I, like everyone else, was horrified as I watched the tragedy unfold in Newtown, Conn., on Friday. My colleagues and I crowded around our office TVs and watched the news, feeling utterly helpless. I stayed glued to my TV late into the night on Friday and Saturday, watching Anderson Cooper and other newscasters struggle to report on the tragedy.
I was particularly affected by Robbie Parker, the young father who took to the airwaves on Saturday night to speak on behalf of his family and his beautiful daughter Emilie. I was struck that in the face of such heartbreak, he was able to so eloquently speak about Emilie. He stood as a beacon of hope, forgiveness and love and somehow in his own sorrow was able to comfort the entire nation.
On Sunday morning, I received an email from our CEO, Marian Salzman, informing the Havas PR team of our connection to the nightmare in Connecticut. A former colleague of ours is first cousin to Alissa Parker, Emilie’s mother. Later that day I learned that Marian had been in touch with the family, offering our team’s support as they struggled with their grief.
Suddenly, I was presented with the opportunity to do something in the wake of this tragedy. I could put to use my 10 years’ experience working in PR to help the Parker family manage the influx of media inquiries, develop and distribute statements, and produce a website for a newly created fund to benefit the families of Sandy Hook Elementary.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with Robbie Parker by phone. It was one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had in my life. What exactly do you say to a man who just lost his 6-year-old in a senseless tragedy? And, even more difficult, what do you say when he tells you that he has spent the day trying to write her eulogy?
These families, in addition to losing a child, have suddenly been thrust into the spotlight, being forced to deal with their loss on the national stage. The opportunity to offer my help to lighten at least one family’s load has been an honor. I am truly hopeful that the assistance we have provided has brought comfort to the Parkers, giving them the space they need as a family to heal.
Please visit emilieparkerfund.com. If you can, consider donating money to help these families in their healing process. And spread the word to help keep Emilie’s spirit alive.
[photo courtesy of the Parker family]