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After losing her 6-year-old daughter four years ago, Nelba Mérquez-Greene tells Orlando families "it will never be the same"

By Dave Quinn
Updated June 14, 2016 01:55 PM
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Credit: Jessica Hill/AP

A mother who lost her 6-year-old daughter in 2012’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is sending solidarity and support to the families of Sunday’s Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.

“I am so, so sorry,” Nelba Mérquez-Greene, who lost daughter Ana Grace in the Newtown, Connecticut, killing, wrote. “I am sorry that our tragedy here in Sandy hook wasn’t enough to save your loved ones And I know it will never be the same.”

“My message was and is and always will be ‘love wins,’ ” she continued. “Because hate, ugly, evil and prejudice cannot silence love, courage, good.”

Her powerful letter appeared on the Facebook page for the Ana Grace Project – a family-endorsed memorial page whose mission is to promote “love, community and connection for every child and family.”


Mérquez-Greene said news of the shooting brought flashbacks to Sandy Hook.

“My first reaction was visceral,” she described. “I know the horror of waiting to hear. A helicopter flew overhead. It made everything too real. Too familiar. I panicked. I called my friend. I cried. Fifty people. I am reliving being one of the family members in wait.”

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The attack also reminded her of last year, when nine people died after 21-year-old Dylann Roof opened fire during a Bible study class at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

“An attack against people who are gay. A specific group. Just like last year around this time. The 17th of June. A Black church. My head is spinning,” she explained.

Related Video: People Reporter Shares His Experience Reporting From Scene and Being a Member of Community Where Orlando Mass Shooting Took Place

Speaking of her experience, Mérquez-Greene urges the families of the victims to ignore any criticism that may come their way. “Don’t you dare even listen to even ONE person who may insinuate that somehow this is your loved ones fault because they were gay or any other reason,” she said. “Nor is it God’s wrath.”

“They did that to us on Sandy Hook too,” she added. And it broke my heart.”

Instead, she advised families to hold on to the love coming from the surrounding community. “You will receive love from a million places,” she said. “Embrace it. Take good care of yourself. This will be a forever journey. Some ugly will come your way too. Delete. Ignore. Let it go.”

“Your loss today will bring out the worst AND the best in all of us,” Mérquez-Greene wrote. “May we commit to being our best selves in honor of what you now bear.”

She also vowed to keep the memories of the Orlando victims alive.

“I will commit to learning about each and every one of your loved ones,” she pledged. “And we will commit as a family to learning about their lives and the legacies you build in their memory. My son [Isaiah] will learn about your loved ones. And we will not forget. We will say their names out loud. We will remember your children. As you remembered and learned about ours.”

WATCH: Faces of Orlando: Heartbreaking Stories of Lives Lost and Heroic Actions in the June 12 Attack

Mérquez-Greene and her husband, Jimmy Greene, had moved their family to Sandy Hook four months before the shooting that took their daughter’s life. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist, with an academic and private practice background in community mental health.

Before ending her letter, she suggested those with “generous hearts” be sure any dollars they donate will actually benefit the families of victims, alleging “very little actually reached us” after Sandy Hook. She then guided interested parties seek out anti-gun and gay-support organizations.

You can read Mérquez-Greene’s powerful letter in full here.