‘Remembering America’s Gun Victims’: Josephine Gay (Sandy Hook, Connecticut)

‘Remembering America’s Gun Victims’: Josephine Gay (Sandy Hook, Connecticut)

Josephine Grace Gay was on the autism spectrum and was nonverbal. 

Despite not communicating, Joey, as she was known to family and friends, often got people to do exactly what she wanted, her mother Michele said.

“She was also very mischievous,” Michele said. “I think sometimes people didn’t realize how very strategic and sometimes cunning she was to get her way. But those are things that those … who were so close to her — her friends, her classmates, her neighbors and all the neighborhood kids — like, they all knew that she wasn’t missing a beat, so don’t be fooled.”

Joey also won her way into people’s hearts, as she rode her bike in the streets of her Newtown community.

During the summer, she even set up a lemonade stand.

Joey was in her class at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012 when a gunman broke in and shot and killed her and 20 other children and six adults there.

Joey, who died just three days after her seventh birthday, loved purple — a color she could never get enough of.

In her memory, homes in her neighborhood hung purple balloons on their mailboxes and gates after the Sandy Hook massacre.

A playground with purple features was built in her honor in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 2013. 

“Approaching this 10-year mark is heavy,” Joey’s mother Michele told Heart Connecticut Media, referring to the anniversary marking the 2012 killings. 

“Every year, we are faced with this day of remembrance, and there’s a lot of tension and a lot of, kind of, pressure that comes with it. But I think … we just have to be sort of disciplined in stepping back and recognizing that it is important, it sort of unifies folks around the activity of remembering.”

Joey, who was born in Maryland, was the youngest of three daughters to Michele and Bob Gay.

After her death, her family created Joey’s Fund with the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism to support families who have children with autism. 

As of December 7, 2022, more than $375,000 has been raised for about 200 families since the establishment of the fund.

* Adapted from Connecticut Heart Media’s interview with Michele Gay, published on newstimes.com, and from The Wall Street Journal’s tribute for Sandy Hook victims.


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