Francine Wheeler choked back tears while delivering the president’s weekly address in Barack Obama’s stead Saturday, sharing how her 6-year-old son Ben’s tragic death turned her and her husband into gun control advocates.
Wheeler reminisced of her 6-year-old’s energy on the soccer field, how he sang in perfect pitch and had just finished his third piano recital, and how he wanted to be either an architect or a paleontologist when he grew up. “Ben experienced life at full-tilt,” she said. That was until he was gunned down with 19 other children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary last December.
“I’ve heard people say that the tidal wave of anguish our country felt on Dec. 14 has receded, but not for us. To us, it feels like it happened just yesterday,” Wheeler said.
She is the only person other than President Obama or Vice President Joe Biden to deliver the weekly address under this administration. Obama had asked the grieving couple to appear on his weekly address after they and about a dozen other Newtown family members took to Congress this week to lobby for tighter gun laws.
“We have to convince the Senate to come together and pass common sense gun responsibility reforms that will make our communities safer and prevent more tragedies like the one we never thought would happen to us,” Wheeler said in the address.
On Thursday, gun legislation cleared its first of likely many looming hurdles to pass through Congress when the Senate agreed to open debate on the chamber floor. ”They haven’t yet passed any bills that will help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, and a lot of people are fighting to make sure they never do,” Wheeler warned.
“I feel Ben’s presence filling me with courage for what I have to do for him and for all of the others taken from us so violently and too soon,” Wheeler said in the address. She wrote her remarks with her husband, David Wheeler, who sat silently beside her in the address taped in the library at the White House Friday morning.
“Please help us do something before our tragedy becomes your tragedy.”