One month after his nephew was fatally shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Woodinville attorney Alexis Haller sat down with his family to a dinner honoring the memory of the 6-year-old with his favorite food — tacos.
“For us, the loss of Noah — not just now, but thinking of how important he would’ve been in the future for all of us — makes it very tough,” said Haller, the uncle of Noah Pozner, one of the 20 children who perished in the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn.
The evening before, Haller had sent a list of recommendations to the White House. Arriving two days before President Obama unveiled broad gun-control proposals, they included everything from increased funding for school security to new laws that would have made the shooter’s mother criminally liable.
Haller tried to avoid the politically charged gun-control debate, focusing instead on less polarizing measures he thinks are more likely to pass Congress.
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“The public discourse gets simplified to one idea versus another, when in fact you should be talking about a lot of different things,” Haller said. “That’s what I, in my own small way, as a family we’re trying to show — that there are other approaches.”
When he is done seeking change on the national level, the Woodinville resident plans to focus on local changes.
One of his children is in public school and the other will be, “so I want to make sure they’re as safe as can be,” he said, as his 6-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter played with Legos in the living room.
Haller and his wife, Victoria Haller, are coping with the tragedy by trying to prevent something like Noah’s death from happening again.
”I think it’s a lifelong battle,” said Haller, a former criminal attorney who now works in international law. “I think we’ll always be trying to think of ways we can protect kids and try to prevent mass shootings.”
Hitting it off
Haller’s son, Ethan, saw his cousin in April for the first time since they were babies.
Only six weeks apart in age, the boys became best friends immediately.
Haller and his sister, Veronique Pozner, Noah’s mother, were excited to see them hitting it off so well, because Pozner and her family were planning to move to Seattle to be near her brother and her parents.
“There were four [cousins] born within six months. I always thought they would be four friends and cousins growing up,” Haller said. “Obviously that’s changed now.”
A curious and rambunctious child, Noah bonded easily with family members. He often said his twin sister, Arielle — who survived the shooting — was his best friend. When his mother told him she loved him, he responded, “Not as much as I love you.”
On the evening of Dec. 14, when Haller found out his nephew had been killed, his wife explained to Ethan what had happened and asked if he wanted to go with them to Connecticut for the funeral. Ethan said no.
Haller was relieved. “It’s no place for a child,” he said. “It’s no place for an adult.”
In response to Noah’s death, Haller proposed two laws.
One would require anyone who knows of an imminent threat to report it, while the other would require gun owners to secure their guns from mentally unstable individuals.
Haller also suggested security reviews at public schools and federal funding to pay for recommendations arising from those reviews.
Because Noah’s teacher that day was a substitute who may not have been familiar with the school’s emergency procedure, Haller also recommended that every school employee across the nation undergo the same emergency training.
Haller’s final recommendation was a national emergency counseling program.
While other families have banded together to form foundations such as Sandy Hook Promise, the Hallers are working on their own.
“All the families right now are going through such a horrible experience,” Haller said. ”We didn’t want to pressure them.”
Taking action has helped his family address the tragedy, though “I don’t think it’s something we’ll ever fully recover from,” Haller said.
“I don’t think that’s in the cards. It’s just something you learn to live with.”
Sarah Freishtat: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org