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

Posted: Updated:
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.

MORE: Bomb threat forces Sandy Hook evacuation on shooting anniversary
MORE: 6 years after Sandy Hook, officials changing response methods to tragedies 

“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.

  • Connecticut SlideshowsGalleriesMore>>

  • Your 2019 Prom Photos

    Your 2019 Prom Photos

    Are you or a loved one headed to the prom this year? We want to see your photos!
    Are you or a loved one headed to the prom this year? We want to see your photos!
  • Your 2019 Graduation Day Photos

    Your 2019 Graduation Day Photos

    Are you or someone special to you graduating this year? We want to see the photos!
    Are you or someone special to you graduating this year? We want to see the photos!
  • Your 2019 Father's Day Photos

    Your 2019 Father's Day Photos

    Celebrate your father this Father's Day! Send us photos of you and your dad or you and your kids!
    Celebrate your father this Father's Day! Send us photos of you and your dad or you and your kids!
sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 20 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login or create an account to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."