Father still in shock 6 years after losing son in Sandy Hook shooting

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NEWTOWN -

It’s been six years since the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, but the day is permanently etched in the minds of the families of the 20 children and six educators killed that day.

Neil Heslin’s son Jesse was only 6 ½ years old when he was shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary. Heslin dropped off his son at Sandy Hook Elementary School at 9:04 that day.

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“I feel guilty,” he says. “I feel like I walked him to his death.”

Jesse has now been gone for almost as long as he was alive.

“I just miss him so much, it rips my heart apart thinking about it every day,” says Heslin.

Heslin says Jesse was a force - outgoing, loud, and wise beyond his years – and the kind of kid you’d meet once and forever remember.

Jesse had that impact in the final moments of his life. Investigators say he screamed for his classmates to run when the shooter paused to reload. Nine of them got out alive.

“I'm incredibly proud of him for his actions and his words but ... you know, knowing he died a hero at 6 years old, but it doesn't lessen the pain or the loss at all,” says Heslin.

Many Sandy Hook families have turned their tragedy into activism and charity, including Jesse's parents. His father established a scholarship in his name, awarded to a high school senior every year. His mother started the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, a nonprofit with a goal to make sure every child has access to social and emotional learning in their classroom.

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