Sandy Hook parent puts emphasis on compassion at trauma conference

Scarlett Lewis praised audience members for being the”heroes” of trauma response and discussed the importance of social-emotional learning

By Leon Lagerstam
Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus

BETTENDORF, Iowa — A parent of a Sandy Hook student killed in the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting tragedy, served as a keynote speaker at a Friday “A to Z Trauma Conference.”

Scarlett Lewis, mother of slain first-grader Jesse Lewis in the 2012 incident, spoke during the Genesis Health System-sponsored conference.

In the shooting aftermath, Lewis founded a Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation.

The conference was held at the Quad-Cities Waterfront Convention Center in Bettendorf.


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Lewis praised audience members for being the”heroes” of trauma response and discussed the importance of social-emotional learning that she has dedicated her life to.

The conference has been held for the last 16 years, according to organizer Dr. K. Jon Hartman, Genesis trauma medical director and private surgeon, who called Lewis’ job as “wonderful.”

Lewis shared last photos taken of Jesse and final notes he left on a chalkboard and to his then 12-year old brother. She also had taken photos of a “I Love You” message Jesse had written on car-window glass before it was defrosted.

“Have a lot of fun” was the note he had left his brother, and his chalkboard message of “Nurturing, Healing, Love” became one of his mom’s favorite sayings and title of a book she wrote.

Jesse’s death was 100 percent preventable, she said.


Lewis urged audience members to choose compassion and to be part of the solution, not the problem.

She talked about how she has forgiven gunman Adam Lanza, saying blaming Lanza would have been easy, but shortly after the shooting, she counted him and his mother, whom he also shot and killed, among the 20 murdered students, and six adult staff members who were victims, to bring the total to 28.

“I would have never chosen what happened to Jesse or Adam,” she said.

Jesse saved nine classmates while Lanza changed clips, and received “Commander-in-chief-like” funeral services, Lewis said.

She also challenged people to change their thinking, and have happy thoughts instead of continuing a “negative bias.”

Gun safety, access to mental health and social emotional learning such as what she professes were three vital things to do, according to a later survey

Yet, she pointed out “there is no mass-murderer gene,” or “emotional learning gene,” either.

Audience member Jennifer Erickson, a Trinity nurse and paramedic in the Quad-Cities, said she would like Lewis to present a similar program to schools where her nieces and nephews attend.

Hartman just hoped audience members all got a better understanding of what patients go through, from a victim’s perspective.

Other speakers led presentations about specific injury treatment, including a bleeding-control program, he said.

A 165-member crowd was registered for the day-long conference designed for doctors, nurses, emergency responders and other trauma team members.

Copyright 2018 Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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