NEWTOWN, Connecticut - The father of a six-year-old murdered in America's latest gun massacre opened his heart Saturday to pay tribute to his "bright, creative and very loving" little girl.
Robbie Parker, a 30-year-old physician's assistant who works in an intensive care unit for newborns, said the deaths of Emilie and 19 classmates should "inspire us to be better, more compassionate and caring toward other people."
And he included the family of the apparent shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, in his condolences, addressing them through the news media to say: "I can't imagine how hard this experience must be for you."
"I want you to know that, for our family, our love and support goes out to you as well," he said. Lanza is thought to have killed his mother Nancy with one of her own guns before heading to the school to kill the children.
Emilie, a blonde and blue-eyed girl was among 20 kids and six adults slain Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut when a gunman armed with an assault rifle burst into two classrooms.
Her father said he took comfort in the love Emilie had always shown, helping to teach her four-year-old sister to read and her three-year-old sister to draw, and writing messages and cards for loved ones.
"My daughter Emilie would be one of the first ones to be standing and giving her love and support to all those victims," he said.
"Because that's the type of person that she is. Not because of any parenting that my wife and I could have done. But because those were the gifts that were given to her by her Heavenly Father," added Parker, blinking back tears.
"She was an exceptional artist, and she always carried around her markers and pencils so she never missed an opportunity to draw a picture or make a card for those around her," he said.
"Emilie's card-making was expressed beautifully this last October when she placed a very special card she had made into the casket with her grandpa, who also just recently died of a tragic accident."
Parker had been at work in Danbury Hospital when news of the shooting came through, and could not get away. He spoke of his anguish as he talked by telephone to his wife Alissa desperately seeking news at the school.
He paid tribute to Emilie's murdered teacher and thanked the agencies that had reached out to the parents of the victims to offer counseling services.
"The only thing I can say to other parents is the comfort we can find, at least we know there's other people that are in the same boat that we are. That there's other people that know how you're feeling," he said.
"And even though we are going through it differently and our emotions are different, and we're going to process this whole thing differently, we're in this together and we're forever linked by this event."
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