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Varda Epstein Headshot

Jesse Lewis: A Hero in the Silence Forever

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"Run," yelled 6 year-old Jesse Lewis, standing by the side of his beloved teacher, Miss Soto.
They'd all heard the shooting and then silence as Lanza stopped to reload. They'd seen their teacher go down.

They all stood, frozen in shock.

Only Jesse reacted. Only Jesse was cognizant that the silence that had taken the place of the staccato shots they'd heard represented a chance: a chance to live. A chance to run free and clear of the nightmare.

"Run," he cried.

"Run," he cried, and having jogged the survival instincts of his nine classmates, having woken them to the possibilities still there before them, Jesse went down, the first fresh bullet cutting his young life short.

What could a six year-old know of such things? Of shots fired into small bodies, the adults incapable of offering shelter, the teachers as vulnerable as children themselves? How could Jesse so quickly grasp the absence of the shocking sound in the wake of the shock that still held all in its sharp grip?

No one knows. No one will ever know.

A Hero
All we know is what he did. And that he is a hero.

It is the small differences that create heroes. It is noticing the momentary absence of a shocking sound and offering a quick and compelling directive that is the difference between what Jesse was and the lives he saved.

Did someone teach little Jesse how to be a hero? Was it something he learned -- perhaps in some ubiquitous Kars4Kids sponsored afterschool program? Scarlett Lewis was a single mother -- there would be limits to quality mother/son time. Did he have a mentor?

We might as well ask, "What made Jesse, Jesse?"

Jesse's Essence
For more likely, it was the essence of who he was and what he was meant to do: the goal of his short time here on earth. And still his task is not done, the goal not yet reached.

What's left is for us to tell his story over and over again: the story of Jesse Lewis.

It's left to those he saved one year ago, nine young people, to grow up and as they do their growing, to tell their friends about a hero named Jesse. And it's left to them to grow up to tell their own children and grandchildren in the fullness of time how they got to be where they are in their lives, now and in the future. It's up to them to explain the story of one hero and how because of him, they get to grant lives to others, to their offspring, and the new generations to come.

Silence As Opportunity
It's up to them to tell and retell the story of how one small boy understood silence as opportunity and gave them their lives.

It's the story of how Jesse Lewis became a hero in the silence, forever.