Parents of Newtown Shooting Victim Benjamin Wheeler Welcome New Baby
Welcoming a new baby is usually a blissful time, but for Francine and David Wheeler – who lost their beloved son Benjamin in the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting – becoming parents again is bittersweet.
On Nov. 5, the Wheelers’ lives brightened when they became parents to a new baby boy – Matthew Bennett Wheeler.
“Having Matthew has been a remarkable experience,” David Wheeler, 53, wrote in an email to PEOPLE. (His wife, Francine, became a mother again at 47). “We never imagined we’d be back here again, but nothing has ever felt more right, for Francine or our son Nate or I. Nate, who is 11 now, never stopped being the best big brother he could possibly be – not for one minute – and is overjoyed to continue that job now that Matthew is home.”
On Dec. 14, 2012, the Wheelers lost Benjamin, 6, when Adam Lanza opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle, killing 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
As the two-year anniversary of the deadly shooting approaches, the Wheelers are still mourning the loss of their son – “an irrepressible young boy who dreamed of being an architect, a paleontologist and a lighthouse keeper all at once,” they wrote on a site for the charity they founded in his honor, Ben’s Lighthouse. The nonprofit organization holds programs to “provide safe, happy Newtown moments and memories for the children,” according to the site.
“We all miss Ben terribly,” David wrote, “and that will never change. It’s a mistake to think that anyone ‘gets over’ or ‘moves on’ after a loss like this. We simply try to do the best we can every day to honor Ben and his classmates and teachers and make the thousands of our daily choices and decisions and actions out of love and not fear or anger.”
“It’s not always easy to keep this balance, this willingness to face the world every day, but the alternative is not something we will ever accept, so we keep at it.”
David tells PEOPLE that he and his family have felt “amazing” support from their community.
“The support from our families and our community in Sandy Hook and Newtown has been nothing short of amazing,” David wrote. “We are so grateful, every minute of every day, for the love, kindness and help we continue to receive from this remarkable community – the people of this town are very special to us and we cannot overstate our gratitude.”
Matthew was born at about 12:20 p.m. at Danbury Hospital in Danbury, Connecticut, weighing 8 lbs., 8 oz.
Despite the sleepless nights and late-night feedings that come with caring for a newborn, the Wheelers say the experience is “beautiful.”
“Matthew is a bright, beautiful, wonderful gift and we are all afloat on the joy he brings to our house,” David wrote. “We can’t wait to see what kind of person he will become.”