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What Life Has Become for Daughter of Newtown's Heroic Principal

To save lives, this Newtown survivor talks to gun owners and lawmakers. Hers is one story in "Sandy Hook: One Year Later — a Patch Report."

Sandy Hook Principal Dawn (Lafferty) Hochsprung with her two daughters, Erica, left, and Tina, right. | Photo courtesy of Erica (Lafferty) Smegielski
Sandy Hook Principal Dawn (Lafferty) Hochsprung with her two daughters, Erica, left, and Tina, right. | Photo courtesy of Erica (Lafferty) Smegielski

Dawn Hochsprung, principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School, tried to keep the young man carrying an automatic weapon from getting into her school. Trying to protect her schoolchildren and staff, the 47-year-old woman lost her life one year ago.

She was planning a wedding with her daughter, Erica Lafferty. The marriage took place July 6, 2013, before 150 friends and family members — and an empty white chair for her mom. Her mother had helped with all the arrangements, even finding the groom, Christopher Smegielski, whom she'd noticed when Erica and Christopher were just 12 years old. 

The loving couple were married in Dawn's back yard.

Erica's life is so much different today. She appears on national news shows, visits lawmakers, talks about firearm policies and mental health programs — and she tries to save lives.

"I know if the roles were reversed and I was killed in the school that day, that my mom would do everything she could do to prevent things like that from happening to other moms," Smegielski said.

She began volunteering with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and she became friends with members of the National Rifle Association, too.

"I met some of the coolest guys ever," she said of her visit to the NRA's national conference. "There are three or four who I still talk to on an almost-daily basis on Facebook. I don't think there is a great divide over people who want gun control and people who don't want gun control. I don't think there are two sides to humanity," she told Patch. "My overall goal is to save lives.

"I think pretty much everyone in the world believes that is a good idea."

To read more of her amazing story, Keeping Her Mother's Voice Alive, visit Newtown Patch.


More from Patch on Sandy Hook: One Year Later


YOUR TURN: Send your own message to the people in Newtown in Patch's Notes for Newtown section.

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