FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A decade ago, a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing six teachers and 20 kids. One of the students killed was six-year-old Jesse Lewis.
Some of Jesse’s family members still live in Fayetteville. David Lewis is Jesse’s grandfather. For him, reflecting on the hundreds of thousands of people who arrived in Newtown to remember and mourn the lives lost is difficult to reprocess.
Despite those difficult memories, David is focusing on the positives. His daughter, Scarlett Lewis, started a program in memory of Jesse. The purpose is to teach emotional intelligence in hopes that young people won’t be driven to commit tragic acts of violence.
“Angry kids are the ones that carry out these crimes, anger to the point of needing to project it out into killing other people. So, I think it’s really probably the only solution,” said David.
David doesn’t even hold anger towards the Sandy Hook shooter. He references the response to what would happen to the shooter of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
“Parents were extremely upset that he wasn’t going to be put to death, but I don’t believe having the killer put to death would offer them any peace whatsoever. These people need our compassion, they don’t need our judgment,” said David.
The non-profit started in Jesse’s honor is called the “Choose Love Movement”. Scarlett said she was inspired to start the movement after coming back home and seeing a message left by Jesse on a chalkboard before he died. It said, “nurturing, healing, love”.
“That was the solution. That if the shooter had been able to give and receive nurturing, healing love, the tragedy would never have happened,” said Scarlett.
A driving motivator for Scarlett is remembering what Jesse did on the day of the shooting. Scarlett said Jesse stood up to the shooter when he came into his first-grade classroom. Scarlett said Jesse is credited with saving nine of his classmates that day.
“Every day, I get up and I say, wow, if my six-year-old son could have done that, then I certainly can greet this day with gratitude. I can show up. I can talk about this, and that’s what I’ve done for the last 10 years, literally circling the globe a few times,” said Scarlett.
Scarlett still remembers the last time she saw Jesse alive. She was walking him out to the car, turned around to give him a hug, and he had written “I love you” in the frost on the car windshield.
The Choose Love Movement is in 10,500 schools, in 120 countries and has reached 3 million children. The program focuses on schools, teaching emotional intelligence and kindness. All of the programs are free online, so anyone can look them up.
Scarlett said the programs can be used in schools, workplaces and communities and are for people of all ages.
Parents come to Scarlett frequently, saying they worry every day when they drop their kids off at school. If you are worried, Scarlett said you should contact your school to see what they’re doing to teach mental health awareness and emotional intelligence.
David is proud of his daughter and all the work she’s put into the Choose Love Movement.
“She stuck to this idea that this is the right thing to do. This is what my son wanted me to do, and she never got off the path,” said David.