‘Remembering America’s Gun Victims’: Dylan Hockley (Sandy Hook, Connecticut)

‘Remembering America’s Gun Victims’: Dylan Hockley (Sandy Hook, Connecticut)

To the world, Dylan Hockley was a beautiful, joyous, loving boy who often would laugh himself silly by repeatedly replaying parts of his favorite movies.

“He had an infectious laugh and was passionate about the moon, garlic bread, the color purple and computer games,” his mother Nicole says.

Few outside Dylan’s inner circle, however, knew that he was an autistic child.

“He was autistic,” Nicole said, “but incredibly empathetic.”

“He just wanted to have fun.”

The six-year-old was at his Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012 when a gunman broke in and shot and killed him and 20 other children and six adults there.

Dylan also thought of himself as a butterfly.

He loved to bounce on a trampoline in the family’s backyard, remembers his father Ian.

When his dad would return to their Newtown, Connecticut, home each day, Dylan would run to his father, Ian, saying,”Daddy!”

“I’d say, ‘Go out on the trampoline!’ Ian Hockley said. “And he would always say, ‘Are you coming, Daddy?'”

Together, they would vault up on the trampoline and bounce, sometimes joined by Dylan’s brother, Jake, who is two years older.

“If I didn’t go, Dylan wouldn’t go,” Ian Hockley remembers. “He just wanted to have so much fun with me.”


At Dylan’s Celebration of Life service, his mom, Nicole Hockey, described her beautiful son.

“We remember his smile. His laugh. His love of bouncing on trampolines and eating chocolate. His beautiful eyes and mischievous grin. His deep empathy in reacting to the feelings of others. His favorite books. The giant purple dots he made almost every day at school. His sensitivity to loud noises and his love of routine. His computer games and his most loved movies. The way he would lie in the warm sand at the beach, or take joy in finding the moon in the sky. How he called lightning “beautiful”, even while he was scared by the thunder. How he would ride a roller coaster time after time and still not want to get off. The way other children were drawn to him, and how he wanted to play with them so much, even though he didn’t always know how. The way he loved to cuddle, have his back stroked, be tickled, or use other people as pillows when he snuggled against them.”

In a joint tribute, the family said everyone who met Nicole loved him.

“His beaming smile would light up any room and his laugh was the sweetest music,” they said. “He loved to cuddle, play tag every morning at the bus stop with our neighbors, bounce on the trampoline, play computer games, watch movies, (seeing) the color purple, seeing the moon and eating his favorite foods, especially chocolate. He was learning to read and was so proud when he read us a new book every day. He adored his big brother Jake, his best friend and role model.”

Nicole Hockley said that her son had an amazing bond with teacher Anne Marie Murphy — and that on the day of the shooting she searched for Murphy, knowing she would never leave Dylan alone.

A few days after the tragedy, the Hockleys ran into Mike Murphy, whose wife Anne Marie Murphy was also slain at Sandy Hook. Anne Marie was Dylan’s teacher and was extremely protective of him.

Mike Murphy revealed to the Hockleys that — in the terrible aftermath of the attack — first responders found Dylan and his teacher together.

“He said that Anne Marie Murphy had been found with her arms wrapped around Dylan … that is what we had hoped for — in a very strange sort of way to hope for something,” said Nicole.

Murphy was his “amazing” aide, Dylan’s family said. He loved her, pointing happily to her photo on the Hockley’s refrigerator every day.

“She loved him and he loved her and she would’ve looked after him no matter what,” Nicole says. “To know that he was with her, and that he wasn’t alone, that gives you a huge peace of mind … to know that he was loved even in those last moments.”

She recalled asking Dylan at one time why he flapped his arms when he got excited. She hadn’t expected an answer because Dylan had a form of autism that left him with undeveloped language skills.

“Because I am a beautiful butterfly,” he told her.

* Adapted from Dylan Hockley’s tribute on twentysixbells.com


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