Most of you have probably never heard of the name, Francine Wheeler. Hollywood actress, Broadway starlet, world traveler? Olympic champion, literary scholar, notorious activist? Francine Wheeler holds none of these titles; and yet, the actions she has taken in the last four months have exposed her to national attention from all demographics.
Earlier this week, Americans dropped their daily routines and watched Francine Wheeler replace the President of the United States as she delivered the National Weekly Address. The topic of discussion was gun safety legislation, which, earlier this week, failed to meet the required number of votes to pass in the Senate. But prior to the vote, Francine Wheeler pleaded with the American government and people to take the necessary steps toward gun reformation in the United States. She sat before us, vulnerable and wounded, begging the nation to hear her story. And if we were anywhere in the U.S. on December 14, 2012, chances are we were well-versed long before the words came out of her mouth. Francine Wheeler was the mother of six-year-old Ben, a first-grader at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, and one of the 20 innocent children whose lives were snatched away too soon due to gun violence.
I know what you’re thinking “Here we go again, another blog rant about gun control.” While I do have various opinions on the matter, I have no intentions of divulging them at this time. After all, this is a column dedicated to extraordinary women who seek to make a real difference in the world. And if her appearance on our country’s Weekly Address is any indication, I’d say that Francine Wheeler more than meets the aforementioned criteria. While most of us have experienced what it’s like to lose a loved one, I doubt that anyone has gone up in front of the country, wiped away their tears, and delivered a cohesive, emotionally-packed speech to millions of viewers. I doubt that anyone who has lost a child has been able to compose themselves long enough to talk about it only four months later. And I know, with unwavering certainty, that anyone whose son has died at the hands of a cowardice, unforgivable criminal, probably would not be able to prepare themselves for the step that Francine Wheeler was strong enough to take.
The efforts of the families whose loved ones were taken at Sandy Hook Elementary have been unstoppable since that tragic day. They have become a family, united by a common link that none of them will ever forget. They are a force that will be forever determined to bring justice to their sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, spouses, best friends; they will make each day without them count toward a greater good. Their first step toward this eventual goal is The Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit corporation founded by community members of Newtown, Connecticut in the aftermath of the tragedy taken place last December. The mission is simple: support the families of the victims, survivors, and all those involved by providing financial assistance for however long they need. The second part of the mission, which was partially implemented by Francine Wheeler when she addressed the nation last weekend, is to work toward identifying and enforcing holistic, common sense policy changes that will make our country safer. Through changes in legislation, outreach programs, and educational lectures on the importance of safety and gun violence, SHP hopes to bring about positive changes in light of their losses and in the names of each innocent victim that fell at the hands of someone who should have never had access to a weapon. They welcome and encourage support from all who are inspired by their efforts and are ready to create a world that we feel safe being a part of.
Francine Wheeler is just a citizen. She is a mother and a wife. She lives in a small Connecticut community. Her children went to school in a relatively safe environment. Her oldest son wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up, and Ben just wanted to be like his older brother. Francine Wheeler could have been one of us; Francine Wheeler is each and every one of us. She experienced a heart-wrenching, unspeakable loss in her life; and nearly four months later, she has developed the strength and courage to ensure that her beautiful little boy will live on as a symbol of hope for all generations, both past and present.
“I’ve heard people say that the tidal wave of anguish our country felt on 12/14 has receded, but not for us. To us, it feels as if it happened just yesterday. And in the four months since we lost our loved ones, thousands of other Americans have died at the end of a gun. Thousands of other families across the United States are also drowning in our grief. Please help us do something before our tragedy becomes your tragedy.” -Francine Wheeler
In light of this week’s events, we encourage all of our readers to stay informed, stay aware, and most importantly, stay safe. And to the victims of the Boston Marathon Massacre, Texas Explosion, Sandy Hook Tragedy, Aurora Shooting, and the countless acts of violence across the country, you are all in our prayers<3