DANBURY, Conn. — In one dream, 6-year-old Noah brushes his teeth at the sink, his dark hair wet. He looks directly at his mother and says, “Mommy, I’m having fun.” In another, Veronique Pozner gives birth atop a mountain, is handed the infant by a midwife and walks down a long flight of stairs back to a village. But she drops the baby.
“When I got to the bottom, the baby was dead,” Pozner says, crying.
Since the massacre last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Pozner has struggled with the gaping hole left by the loss of her energetic, affectionate son. She has tried to help her other children cope and make sense of the senseless. And she has managed to lead her family in pushing for reforms from the White House.
“What’s the alternative?” the 45-year-old oncology nurse told The Associated Press in an interview this week. “Not getting out of bed? I don’t think Noah would want to see me like that, although sometimes it is hard to get out of bed.”
Gunman Adam Lanza killed his mother at home, shot his way into the school Dec. 14, killed 20 first-graders and six educators, and committed suicide as police arrived, according to investigators. They said the mother and son fired at shooting ranges and also visited ranges together.
Pozner says she believes the woman was negligent.
“I think he had a mother who at best was blind; at worst aided and abetted him,” she says. “Maybe she wanted to compensate for his feelings of inadequacy by letting him handle weapons of mass carnage and taking him to shooting ranges. I think there was gross irresponsibility, and I’d like to think that maybe she was just as unwell as he was to have allowed someone as obviously compromised as he was to have access.”
Those who knew Nancy Lanza have described her as a good, devoted mother.
Pozner was at her job in nearby New Britain when she heard a report of a shooting at the school. She rushed there and found her two daughters — including Noah’s twin, Arielle — but Noah’s class was unaccounted for. As she waited, she noticed clergy members among the parents and began to fear the worst.
“Just in my heart of hearts I knew something really bad had happened,” she says. She asked if it was a hostage situation. No. “I asked them if it was a morgue up there,” she says.
At some point, she was told 26 people had been killed, including 20 children.
“It was kind of like being told when you wake up from a routine operation, ‘I’m sorry, but you’re now paralyzed below the neck and you’re going to have to learn to live for the rest of your life like that,'” Pozner says.
She went into denial at first, thinking Noah was just hiding at school. Relatives and friends offered support. Visiting a makeshift memorial helped, too. She recently took her children out of town for a few days, and the family is getting counseling.
“But I find that grief finds me no matter how busy I keep,” she says. “It’s a very strange process. It just blindsides you when you least expect it.”
Pozner’s family has submitted a detailed proposal to a White House task force, recommending a range of legal reforms including federal grants to review security at public schools and requiring gun owners to lock weapons if mentally ill or dangerous people could access them otherwise.
Pozner also says it’s not right that the law protects the release of any mental health information on the gunman. She says she plans to challenge that because it could shed light.
“Those are all answers that I feel that we’re entitled to,” she says.
The family also is suggesting a new law requiring people to notify police within 24 hours if they know about an imminent threat of harm or death made by a person who has access to guns or explosive devices.
“I’ve just been in deep admiration of her strength and her ability to try to do something positive and to try to make a difference out of what happened,” says Pozner’s brother, Alexis Haller. “She’s an inspiration really for the whole family.”
Pozner says she is not ready to go back to work yet. These days, she has a tattoo near her wrist with angel wings and her son’s name, his birth date of Nov. 20, 2006, and the day he died, Dec. 14, 2012.
“He was just a very expressive little boy,” Pozner says. “He was just a bundle of energy.”
She thinks of her son’s facial expressions, of him asking for a snack after school. Days before the massacre, he had come downstairs to see her shortly after being put to bed.
“I just wanted to give you one more hug,” Noah said.
“Why is your pajama top off?” his mother asked.
“So I can feel your heart better,” he replied.
Noah loved Star Wars and SpongeBob. He was especially close to his twin, who escaped the shooting unharmed along with 7-year-old sister Sophia.
Arielle continues to talk about Noah in the present tense. Among donations the family received was a stuffed animal they call Noah bear.
“Every time Arielle hugs it, she says it doesn’t feel anything like her brother, but she does enjoy having it around,” Pozner says.
Her children are filled with questions. Why did it happen? Where is the shooter now? Can he still hurt Noah and the other victims?
“I tell them, ‘Just like some people can be very sick in their bodies, some people can be very sick in their souls, and they don’t think the same way other people do and they can’t feel other people’s pain,'” Pozner says.
She assures them the gunman can’t bother Noah and the other children anymore.
She took her children back to school in neighboring Monroe this week for the first time since the shooting. On the drive, Sophia asked her not to play music on the radio because it makes her cry.
Pozner says she was reassured to see police at the school and believes such a presence can act as a deterrent.
“I don’t think it’s an accident that he picked an elementary school,” Pozner says, noting there were “no large members of the wrestling team to be able to tackle him down in the parking lot.”