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CNN Special Reports
Sandy Hook, Forever Remembered; Sandy Hook Families Fought For Justice; Alex Jones Mocked Victims' Families; Parents Started A Mission To Help Others. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired December 14, 2022 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NICOLE HOCKLEY, MOTHER OF DYLAN HOCKLEY: It's a shooting and it's at our school. I literally dropped to the ground. And I thought, oh, gosh, this isn't good.
MARK BARDEN, FATHER OF DANIEL BARDEN: I was just running into our family van and just flying.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: -- Since a lone gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 children and 6 adults.
KAITLIN ROIG-DEBELLIS, FORMER FIRST GRADE TEACHER, SANDY HOOK SCHOOL: It was just so horrific what we heard, my colleagues, children begging for their lives, the entire time thinking that we're going to be next.
CAMEROTA: And a stunned nation was left grieving.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): I was sure that Sandy Hook had changed everything. How could you watch that and not decide to do something about it?
CAMEROTA: Tonight --
ALEX JONES, HOST, INFOWARS: Don't ever think this couldn't be staged.
CAMEROTA: -- we take you inside the victims' families' battle against harassment and disinformation.
SCARLETT LEWIS, MOTHER OF JESSE LEWIS: It was the hardest thing I've had to do since my son's murder.
CAMEROTA: Their fight for change --
BARDEN: How did a kid have his hands on an AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle with a high capacity magazine?
HOCKLEY: We have really hurt a generation of kids by not being able to find ways forward.
CAMEROTA: -- and their vow to stop similar tragedies. BARDEN: It's the way I've chose to honor Daniel, to prevent other families from having to endure a life of pain due to preventable violence.
CAMEROTA: Sandy Hook, Forever Remembered.
It was December 14, 2012, just over a week before Christmas.
BARDEN: That morning, something happened that had never happened before. When I was walking James to the bus, I was aware of little pitter-patter of footsteps behind me in the driveway, and it was Daniel in his little Yankees pajamas. I said, what are you doing up and out? He said, I want to come to the bus with you so I can hug James and tell him I love him. So, I put him on the shoulders and we took James to the bus and he wrapped his little arms around him and hugged him and told him he loved him.
CAMEROTA: Then, shortly after that, Mark Barden sent his youngest son, Daniel, off to first grade at Sandy Hook Elementary.
BARDEN: Then it was time to walk him to the bus, and we -- I hugged him and kissed him and told him I loved him.
CAMEROTA: That same morning, Nicole Hockley and her family were planning a festive day.
HOCKLEY: I was planning to go into the school that afternoon. Dylan was in Ms. Soto's class, and it was the day that we were going to be making the ginger bread houses.
CAMEROTA: But soon after sending their boys to school, Barden and Hockley got emergency phone calls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This message is from the superintendent of the Newtown Schools. Due to reports of a shooting --
HOCKLEY: A friend called. She said, Nicole, it's a shooting and it's at our school. She was panicking. I literally dropped to the ground.
BARDEN: I was just in motion. I was just running out of my little studio there and into our family van and just flying and listening to the news and driving.
CAMEROTA: First-grade teacher Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis was in the classroom next to the school's entrance, where a lone gunman started shooting his way in.
ROIG-DEBELLIS: We had two minutes from the initial shot that was fired that I heard, which was about ten feet from where we were sitting. So, for us, time was of the essence, and I knew that hiding was the only option.
CAMEROTA: Roig-DeBellis packed her entire class of 15 first graders into a tiny bathroom and locked the door.
ROIG-DEBELLIS: It was so horrific, like just so horrific what we heard, and that my colleagues, children begging for their lives and just like -- just the entire time thinking that we're going to be next. And, for me, you know, as an adult and being in charge of these baby -- I mean, they're babies. My youngest was five, and most were six. So, I'm thinking the entire time like I'm going watch them die and then they're going to kill me, like, you know? And it's just -- it was -- there really, like, aren't words, like, to articulate what that feels like.
CAMEROTA: Roig-DeBellis tried to keep her kids quiet.
ROIG-DEBELLIS: My kids didn't talk a lot because I knew that silence was key.
CAMEROTA: You told them that.
ROIG-DEBELLIS: Yes, I said we had to be absolutely quiet. At the beginning initially, I remembered one of my little girls started to cry, understandably so. And so she's crying and I have her face in my hands because I know, right, first graders -- I mean, children, and then after maybe 15 minutes had passed, one of my little boys, who was very boisterous, he still stands out that way to me was (INAUDIBLE), and said, Ms. Roig, I do a really good job at karate with my class every week, and I'm pretty sure that I can take on whoever is bad out there if you let me try, like, let me out. Again, that's a first grader, right?
CAMEROTA: Roig-DeBellis and her students hid in the bathroom for 45 excruciating minutes.
ROIG-DEBELLIS: And it was a SWAT team that found us. And so all the SWAT members had one or two of my kids and we're just like running. And at this point, I had held it together in the bathroom because I knew I had to with my kids, but at this point, I'm just -- I'm crying. I don't know if I was hysterical. And I'm asking the SWAT team over and over and over again, like, did you really get them? Are they really gone? Like are they in that bush? Are they in that tree?
CAMEROTA: They were led to a nearby firehouse where parents were waiting.
HOCKLEY: In the one room, I could see first graders sitting down with crossed legs, and I kept looking at all the faces, and I didn't see any of Dylan's classmates and I didn't see Dylan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's an entire class that has not come out of the school yet.
CAMEROTA: Nicole Hockley kept scanning the crowd for her six-year-old son.
HOCKLEY: I remember just like looking, staring at each one, and just not understanding why he wasn't there. People were holding signs with classrooms, and I found someone holding Ms. Soto's sign, but it wasn't Ms. Soto. And there were just a couple kids there, including Dylan's reading partner. And I walked up and I said, where's the rest of the class? And I looked down at Dylan's reading partner, and she just -- her eyes were, like, wide like saucers, and she was just staring, and -- and I thought, oh, gosh, this isn't good.
CAMEROTA: Scarlett Lewis was also there, searching for her six-year- old son Jesse.
LEWIS: I remember being told repeatedly, if you can't find your child, go into the backroom and put his name down on the list. And I'm like, I'm not going to put my child's name down on a list. I'm just going to find him. I tried to go up to the school. They wouldn't let me.
BARDEN: It was surreal. It was frightening. It was just -- it was hard to process. And at that point, the governor brought everybody into a room in the firehouse. And that's -- that's where we got the news.
HOCKLEY: And he said if we were still in that room, that our loved ones weren't coming back.
The room erupted. It was chaos. There was wailing, there was screaming, yelling. The gentleman who was to my right was on the ground pounding the floor.
BARDEN: It was just catastrophic beyond recognition.
CAMEROTA: Hockley and her husband had to break the awful news to their oldest son, Jake.
HOCKLEY: Jake howled like an animal. It was the most disturbing sound I have ever heard in my life because I never heard him make that sound. He just sounded like a wounded animal.
MURPHY: There are a lot of days when I wish I hadn't seen the things I saw and heard the things I heard at that firehouse.
CAMEROTA: Chris Murphy was Connecticut's newly elected U.S. senator.
MURPHY: I was there right outside the room when the parents were told by the governor that there were 20 dead kids. You kind of knew that everything was going to change after Sandy Hook.
CAMEROTA: When we come back --
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We've endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years. And each time I learn the news, I react not as a president but as anybody else would, as a parent.
CAMEROTA: The Sandy Hook families take on the fight of their lives.
CAMEROTA: It was the deadliest elementary school shooting in U.S. history.
OBAMA: We as a nation, we are left with some hard questions.
CAMEROTA: In the days and years after, the question remains, how can school shootings be stopped?
FMR. GOV. DANNEL MALLOY (D-CT): Shootings like this are becoming all too common occurrences in our country. It's also a fact that in almost every one of these cases, there were warning signs.
CAMEROTA: In early 2013, the Connecticut office of the Child Advocate led by Sarah Eagan formed a committee to look for answers.
SARAH EAGAN, CONNECTICUT CHILD ADVOCATE: The office had been charged with investigating the life of the shooter, to the extent that he intersected with publicly funded services for children, health care, mental health, school, and to issue the most significant findings that we could and what that told us about your need for system change.
CAMEROTA: They found that the gunman, who took his own life, struggled with untreated mental health issues. Clinical Psychologist Julian Ford was part of the committee.
DR. JULIAN FORD, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT HEALTH: He stayed pretty much to himself. He often wouldn't make eye contact, he often wouldn't speak to others when they spoke to him.
CAMEROTA: At age 14, his parents took him to see a psychiatrist test jail Yale School of Medicine's Child Study Center.
FORD: The psychiatric team at Yale were very clear in their evaluation that this was an extremely severe and very crucial situation, that this was a boy who was deeply troubled, that he's living in a box, and that box is getting smaller all the time.
CAMEROTA: The team at Yale recommended medication, along with a special therapeutic school with extensive mental health and educational supports.
EAGAN: The Yale evaluators cautioned strongly, you know, you can't change the world to meet his needs. We have to give him the tools to live in the world. Otherwise, we're looking at a very negative trajectory.
CAMEROTA: But the committee found that Yale's recommendations were largely not followed.
FORD: His mother did try to provide a cocoon for him and keep him from any kind of disturbance that would set him off emotionally. And in so doing, she did exactly what we don't want to have happen, when kids need to have some exposure to stress and challenges in limited and tolerable amounts.
CAMEROTA: In the last years of his life he was living in his bedroom in his mother's home with black plastic bags on the windows and only communicating with his mother over email.
DR. KIRSTEN BECHTEL, PROFESSOR OF PEDIATRICS, YALE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: The only peer relationships he had was sort of on this online gaming world.
CAMEROTA: Dr. Kirsten Bechtel is an emergency room doctor at Yale Children's Hospital and worked with the committee. She was not involved in the gunman's evaluation by the Yale Child Study Center.
BECHTEL: There was a lot of violence and a lot preoccupation with war and firearms and things like that.
CAMEROTA: And guns play a prominent role in his and his family's life.
BECHTEL: The mother would use this as a way of connecting with her son, and it seemed like it was the only way that she could.
CAMEROTA: And on December 14th, for reasons still unknown, he shot his mother to death before killing 20 children and 6 staff at Sandy Hook.
FORD: There is no evidence that any provider, anyone in his life ever thought that he would actually act in such a violent way or anything close to that.
CAMEROTA: An investigation by the Connecticut state's attorney found no motive.
EAGAN: So, we asked about what could have been done differently in his mental health treatment to bring about a different result. I want to underscore the lack of a direct line between mental illness, even untreated, and violence of this nature, which is very rare, right? But the reality is that he didn't have very much mental health treatment, very, very, very, very little.
CAMEROTA: In the years since the shooting at Sandy Hook, much has changed for kids and mental health in Connecticut.
BECHTEL: There's much more screening that's done in pediatricians' offices for behavioral health concern.
CAMEROTA: Connecticut has also become a leader in implementing emergency mobile psychiatric services.
BECHTEL: Anyone can call 211, and they have trained mental health workers, social workers that come to the home and triage a situation where a child is in a behavioral health crisis. It's been for me, as an E.D. doc, just a game changer and I think for families also.
CAMEROTA: Dr. Bechtel also says conversations about access to guns are now routine between pediatricians and parents.
BECHTEL: And we routinely screen for depression and suicidality. And as part of that, we also talk about what guess do they have to firearms. And that's nowadays a part of a normative conversation that pediatric health care providers have with parents, especially of adolescence.
CAMEROTA: Coming up, the Sandy Hook families fight for common sense gun changes.
FMR. STATE SEN. JOHN MCKINNEY (R-CT): I met with all the other Republicans. I said, I'm going to go negotiate and work with the Democrats. And if you're not comfortable, you can have a new leader, because I have to do this.
CAMEROTA: As the Newtown community grieved their loss, the feeling across the country was that something would finally be done to address gun violence.
MUPRHY: I was sure that Sandy Hook had changed everything. How could you watch that and not decide to do something about it?
CAMEROTA: It was an uphill battle, but many families from Newtown were ready for that fight. Still raw with motion, Nicole Hockley, Mark Barden and many others threw themselves into the battle to enact commonsense gun legislation to spare others from the devastating laws they'd suffered. But this was new to them.
BARDEN: It was kind of a blissfully, unaware nonpolitical father who played guitar for a living.
HOCKLEY: I knew nothing about gun violence in America. I didn't know anything about firearms.
CAMEROTA: They would need help navigating the treacherous political waters around gun control. Matt Bennett was a policy adviser to the victim's families as they tried to enact gun reform at the federal level.
MATT BENNETT, CO-FOUNDER, THIRD WAY: What I said to them was the obvious thing to do in the wake of this tragedy was to ban assault rifles, the type that were used in this tragedy, and high capacity magazines, but that those things are not going to happen because there's no appetite in Congress. So, what we said was, if we can't get a ban on assault weapons or high capacity magazines, what we need most is to close the loopholes in the background check system. That's the most urgent problem that we face in the gun safety world.
CAMEROTA: Many families pushed for a bill that required a background check on every gun purchased, closing loopholes for gun shows and online sales. Two senators with A ratings from the NRA stepped forward to sponsor the initiative, Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): We have an agreement on an amendment --
CAMEROTA: Many of the families traveled to Washington, D.C. several times in 2013 to lobby for the bill. BARDEN: I carried pictures of Daniel with me, because I wanted them to look at his little face and to sit across from me, a dad whose child just been murdered.
I wanted people to know what my little Daniel was, and he wasn't just a number and a statistic of another school shooting in America.
CAMEROTA: And did it penetrate?
BARDEN: For some, it did. For some, it didn't. Some of them said, you know, my constituents won't understand it this way. And so some stood up and did the right thing, some not so much, some of them lied right to my face.
CAMEROTA: As parents were pushing for federal legislation in D.C., many were also calling for policy change back home in Connecticut.
HOCKLEY: Connecticut already had good gun laws in place, so this was a strengthening of a lot of them.
CAMEROTA: At the time of the shooting, John McKinney was the Republican state senator representing Newtown.
MCKINNEY: I met with all of the victim's families who asked the meet with me. I told them when I met with them that I viewed my job as to be their voice, to do what they needed me to do for them. Assault weapons and large capacity magazines were really top of mind of the people who talked to me about some of the gun control measures.
CAMEROTA: In Connecticut, everything was on the table.
MCKINNEY: One of the things I did was met with all the other Republicans in our caucus, and I was very honest with them. I said I'm going to go negotiate and work with the Democrats on a bill. I'm going to do it as a state senator. I'm going to do it as the leader, but I'm going to do it. And if you're not comfortable with me doing that as your leader, you can have a new leader, and I'll step down. I totally respect that, because I have to do this as their state senator. And, quite frankly, my caucus unanimously said, no, we want you to go in and negotiate and try to work out a bipartisan solution.
The emergency certified bill is passed in concurrence with the Senate.
CAMEROTA: In early April 2013, the Connecticut legislature passed sweeping gun legislation, adding around 100 firearms to an existing assault weapons ban and banning the future sale of magazines with more than ten bullets.
MCKINNEY: Knowing that the eyes of the country were on us, were on the tragedy in Newtown, maybe we would send a message that some things need to be beyond politics.
CAMEROTA: Since the law was passed, Connecticut has not had a single shooting with more than three fatalities. After the huge state level win, many families from Newtown were hopeful for a nationwide victory and made the trip to D.C. for the vote in the Senate.
HOCKLEY: I was very hopeful at that point because I assumed that we were going to have a victory there.
BARDEN: I knew that at least 90 percent of Americans wanted to see that happen. I just thought, okay, this is pretty simple. This is basic. This is what everybody wants.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Requiring 60 votes for the adoption of this amendment, the amendment is not agreed to.
OBAMA: A minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn't worth it. They blocked commonsense gun reforms even while these families looked on from the Senate gallery. This was a pretty shameful day for Washington.
HOCKLEY: I was just -- I was floored. I was absolutely devastated, because I thought with all of the momentum after the shooting, with all of the public polling that showed that people wanted background checks, I received a very hard and devastating lesson on politics that day.
BARDEN: The gun lobby was able to influence legislators, because when the polls were done, passing that universal background check level at the federal level was polling higher than ice cream and baseball. Over 90 percent of Americans wanted that done. And then it didn't pass.
MURPHY: I felt like a failure. I went out of the chamber and said to Mark Barden how sorry I was and that I wasn't going give up, and Mark, I think, looked at me thinking I was hinting he might. And you know, he said to me something along the lines of, Chris, I'm not an advocate for four months. I'm an advocate for 40 years, right? This is my child. I'm never giving up.
BARDEN: Nobody wants to see a shootout in a school.
CAMEROTA: Day in and day out, year after year, Hockley, Barden, and many others continued to fight for gun safety legislation. Then in May 2022 --
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Another horrifying night in this country, 19 children, 2 adults gunned down in a small town in a Texas elementary school.
CAMEROTA: The similarities between Uvalde and Sandy Hook were impossible to ignore. Two elementary schools, two assault rifles, and two communities left shattered.
MURPHY: What are we doing? Why are you here? If not to solve a problem as existential as this.
CAMEROTA: For the first time in a decade, Murphy's Republican colleagues joined him to draft a major gun reform bill.
MURPHY: We felt like if we didn't deliver on this issue, when everybody was telling us do something, Republicans, Democrats, independents, it would be cause for a lot of people to totally give up on democracy.
About midway through the negotiations, we got to a point where we were ready to announce an agreement. I'll never forget just calling Mark and Nicole and a handful of my other friends to let them know that, you know, something really big was going to happen the next day.
We are not going to allow this to become the new normal.
CAMEROTA: The coalition reached an agreement on enhanced background checks for younger people, funding for state level red flag laws, and a prohibition on gun sales to some domestic abusers.
UNKNOWN: The yays are 65. The nays are 33. The motion to concur with an amendment is agreed to.
CAMEROTA: This summer, President Biden signed the bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law.
NICOLE HOCKLEY, CO-FOUNDER, SANDY HOOK PROMISE: Americans want change. We have really hurt a generation of kids, and we have really hurt America by not being able find ways forward. And there are ways of coming together, and so let's take one of the most difficult issues on the table right now and figure out a way to come together and make something meaningful happen that will save lives.
ALEX JONES, FOUNDER, INFOWARS: Don't ever think this couldn't be staged.
CAMEROTA: Coming up next, the battle against Alex Jones.
SCARLETT LEWIS, FOUNDER, CHOOSE LOVE MOVEMENT: It was the hardest thing I've had to do since my son's murder.
CAMEROTA: While the victim's families struggled to cope with their loss, they were also grappling with a haunting question.
MARK BARDEN, CO-FOUNDER, SANDY HOOK PROMISE: How did a kid across the neighborhood have his hands on an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle with a high-capacity magazine?
CAMEROTA: That question led them to some advertising by the manufacturer, Remington Arms.
BARDEN: They were saying, get your man card here. Imagery of a lone gunman. The next best thing to enlisting with a military background. Those weapons are the number one choice for people when they want to kill a lot of people in a short amount of time, because that's what they're designed to do in a military battlefield context.
But when somebody wants to shoot up in elementary school or church, that's the weapon of choice because that's what it does.
HOCKLEY: We started to talk about different lawsuits, and I'd already been shopping around to different law firms saying, you know, there's something here. What can we do?
CAMEROTA: And what were you hearing from those law firms?
HOCKLEY: No, every single one that I spoke to said, it's unwinnable.
CAMEROTA: Unwinnable because of a 2005 U.S. law that protects firearm manufacturers from being held liable when crimes are committed with their weapons. But the families did find one attorney willing to take a chance, Joshua Koskoff.
JOSHUA KOSKOFF, ATTORNEY FOR SANDY HOOK FAMILIES: We know that sometime after the 154th and last bullet was fired, at least from the assault weapon --
I think I probably was being ignorant of how challenging the laws where I come from a long line of trial lawyers and we were our very idealistic, even if the case was impossible to win.
CAMEROTA: While the federal law protecting gun manufacturers did provide some level of immunity, it was not a total shield. There were exceptions including one that allowed for lawsuits if there's proof that the manufacturer knowingly violated state or federal law.
BARDEN: They were engaged in a reckless advertising campaign that was, yielding deadly results.
KOSKOFF: OK, thank you everybody, for coming.
CAMEROTA: The families of nine victims and one survivor sued the gun manufacturer. Claiming that Remington's ads targeted unstable young men and emphasized the gun's ability to exact mass casualties.
LEWIS: They used totally irresponsible strategies. I wanted to send a message to everyone that markets to our kids and young adults that they need to be responsible in that marketing.
KOSKOFF: You can imagine the appeal this type of marketing would have on a adolescent who is in the throes of anxiety or feeling, weak unmanly and saw in this weapon the answer to all their problems.
CAMEROTA: The case dragged on for years with Remington appealing all the way up to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case. Finally, earlier this year, a settlement was announced with the now bankrupt Remington, and its four insurers.
UNKNOWN: Gun maker Remington has reached a $73 million settlement with some of the families of children and adults killed in the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. HOCKLEY: Nothing will bring Dylan back. The closest I get to him now is by kissing his urn every night. Telling him I love him and I miss him, but I made him a promise and I'll keep working to deliver that promise for the rest of my life.
I do get emotional about the victories, about making change, about seeing a thought, a strategy actually come into something that is going to work and make a difference. And this was years of work.
CAMEROTA: The families agreed to a settlement that included $73 million. But more importantly, the right to disclose thousands of pages of internal company documents.
KOSKOFF: The documents that we won the right to disclose to the public were a critical part of the deal. Had that not been part of the deal, there would've been no settlement.
BARDEN: We have all of their internal documents, all of their advertising strategies, and all of the thinking and all the planning that went into that. We'd like to take meaningful steps on creating some guardrails around what is OK and what's not OK with regard to marketing practices especially marketing firearms and weapons to children.
CAMEROTA: The lawsuit against Remington would not be the family's only battle in court. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook, conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones took to his podcast and questioned whether the massacre had ever even happened.
JONES: So, don't ever think the globalists that have hijacked this country wouldn't stage something like this. They kill little kids all day, every day. Don't ever think this couldn't be staged. Now --
CAMEROTA: Followers of Jones web site, Infowars began a year's long campaign harassing the victim's families.
BARDEN: I started getting this ugly filth, people claiming that I was a crisis actor, that Daniel never existed.
CAMEROTA: Barden, Lewis, Hockley, and the families of other Sandy Hook victims, and one first responder filed separate defamation lawsuits against Alex Jones in Texas and Connecticut.
JONES: He -- he's a worse actor than Glen Beck.
LEWIS: With bullying behavior, you first try to ignore it, and then when it doesn't stop, you have to find the courage to stand up to it.
JONES: The 1984 tyranny is 1776. Thank you very much.
CAMEROTA: When the court case got underway, Alex Jones refused to turn over discovery documents required by the court. So, Jones was ruled liable by default. KOSKOFF: What was left was what's called a hearing and damages. So,
the only issue left after that was what was the extent of the harm. And to some extent, the extent of the wrongdoing that Mr. Jones engaged in.
UNKNOWN: Come have a seat in the witness chair.
CAMEROTA: There will be three separate trials. Two have already happened. In each, victim's family members laid bare. The gut- wrenching way Jones's lies tore their lives apart.
LEWIS: Alex, I want you to hear this too.
I had a really hard time being in court. It was the hardest thing I've had to do since my son's murder.
It was deeply unsettling what people were saying about December 14th. The shooting that it didn't happen was scary to think about who would think like this?
CAMEROTA: A Texas jury awarded Lewis and Jesse's father, Neil Heslin, $49.3 million. Bardon and Hockley were part of another trial.
UNKNOWN: All of our abilities to hold onto Daniel's memory, to cherish him and to honor him has been tarnished with toxic hate and lies and danger.
UNKNOWN: I got sent pictures of dead kids because I was told that as a crisis actor, I didn't really know what a dead kid looked like.
UNKNOWN: Ladies, listen to your verdict as it is read.
CAMEROTA: At the end of this trial, the families were awarded more than $1 billion.
UNKNOWN: One hundred 20 million, to plaintiff, David Wheeler, $55 million, Francine Wheeler, 54,000,002, plaintiffs Nicole Hockley, $73,600,000.
HOCKLEY: The number is just astronomical, and I think it was purposefully astronomical because it's sending a very clear message to Alex Jones that this is not going to be allowed anymore. There are consequences.
UNKNOWN: To plaintiffs Mark Barden, $57,600,000.
BARDEN: For me, it was seeing the reaction of people I've become friends with and who I respected admire, and watching their reactions and this, this overwhelming feeling of vindication. Like, we've actually done this.
UNKNOWN: Headline A, headline, B.
CAMEROTA: Jones, who was not in the courtroom for the jury's decision, was live streaming his show and reacted in real time as it was read. JONES: You get a million, you get a hundred million, you got a 50
UNKNOWN: Slander damages.
JONES: You -- these people actually think they're getting any money.
CAMEROTA: Koskoff does.
KOSKOFF: We will chase Alex Jones to the ends of the earth to make him meet his accountability as determined by the jury. So, I don't care what he thinks about that, and I don't care what he says about that. I think he's a desperate guy who is now, as he always has been. He's going to say whatever, whatever he wants, no matter what the validity is of what he is saying. He will be held to pay these damages.
CAMEROTA: But the families say the lawsuits were never about the money. They were a warning to Jones and anyone else who might spread similar vicious lies.
BARDEN: The jury has sent a clear message that this kind of awful profiteering by lying about damaged grieving people is going to be held to account and there will be accountability.
CAMEROTA: Coming up.
BARDEN: Very typical Daniel.
CAMEROTA: The victim's families 10 years later.
BARDEN: And he would say, don't go easy on me because I'm little.
BARDEN: I just keep this with me all the time. It just reminds me of our former life. I see those pictures of him laughing and smiling and running with that giant grin on his face, embracing and enjoying life. And this is, it's also, it's very difficult to constantly have to reckon with the fact that he's gone.
CAMEROTA: It's been 10 years since Mark Barden lost his seven-year- old son Daniel at Sandy Hook.
BARDEN: It's still so present and still raw.
CAMEROTA: But yet you've chosen this like as your life's work.
BARDEN: Yes. Yes. It's the way that I've chosen to honor Daniel. We trained people how to look out for one another and how to protect him and how to be aware.
CAMEROTA: Immediately after the tragedy, Bardon and Hockley started Sandy Hook Promise.
HOCKLEY: It's been one month since I lost my son, Dylan. I still find myself reaching for Dylan's hand to walk through a parking lot. I do not want there to be a next time.
BARDEN: The goal is to prevent other families from having to endure a life of pain due to preventable violence, and that is what we are doing. And how are you doing that?
BARDEN: It took a lot of research to understand that 100 percent of school shooters give off warning signs, 100 percent every single one.
UNKNOWN: Say something teaches youth how to recognize warning signs, especially in social media.
CAMEROTA: Barden and Hockley's program teaches kids and adults what those warning signs are.
HOCKLEY: There are some that are very overt, you know, really noticeable, such as bragging about access to weapons. Such as telling people don't come to school because I'm, you know, I'm going to shoot it up.
It's the subtle threats that we really want to teach kids more about, changes in behavior or appearance, like we're talking drastic changes, being bullied or being a bully. Really pulling away thinking that the whole world is against them and that they need to retaliate.
BARDEN: Students, you know, are the eyes and the ears in these social media platforms. So, the parents aren't seeing the same things and the teachers aren't seeing the same things that students are. And we train them how to look for subtle signs in the social media platforms or on the school bus or in the cafeteria.
CAMEROTA: In another program called Say Something, they teach kids when they see a warning sign to tell a trusted adult.
HOCKLEY: This is where a tipster can put in what they know, what they're afraid of, what's going on.
CAMEROTA: They can anonymously report a tip through an app linked to a crisis center operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
BARDEN: When the crisis center gets a tip from anywhere in the country, they already know the administrators, the school principals, whatever support systems are available in that area. The first responders, if that's what's necessary.
UNKNOWN: If we teach you to do these three steps to --
CAMEROTA: Their work, has trained more than 18 million students and educators, and they say they've prevented 11 planned school shootings in the U.S. to date.
BARDEN: When we were first testing our Say Something program in Ohio, while I was walking back out to the rental car the guidance counselor came running up behind me all obviously upset, and said that this is all just unfolding now.
But an eighth-grade girl who had seen something in her social media that she said, I wouldn't have thought twice about this the day before my Sandy Hook Promise training told my trusted adult, who was this guidance counselor who looked into it further and discovered a plot to put a bomb in a locker, and then when the school was being evacuated, somebody was going to be positioned on a hill and start shooting at the students in the parking lot as they were coming out.
It was all planned, it was ready to go, and arrests were made.
CAMEROTA: And a system worked.
BARDEN: And the system worked. And I still get chills when I tell that story. I don't remember the
name of that little town because something horrible did not happen there, and the rest of the country doesn't know the name of that little town. And all those families are not facing a lifetime of grief because of what didn't happen there.
CAMEROTA: Their program has also prevented more than 300 suicides when students have reached out to their crisis center.
What's the next frontier? What do you still want to do with Sandy Hook Promise?
HOCKLEY: I want our programs in every single school, in the entire country. When I think back to Mothers Against Drunk Driving and how one simple program changed behavior for generations, that's what I want to start with Hello and Say Something to be.
CAMEROTA: How would you describe where you are now personally?
HOCKLEY: You know, I'm never going to be the person I was before 12- 14. I've changed too much and that ridiculously joyful person I was before is, you know, she, she died that day too. I still haven't grieved Dylan to this day. I've still never grieved Dylan, and I'm scared to. But I've seen what could be done. I've seen that we can stop these things.
BARDEN: When you hear about a lockdown, you hear about any kind of a reports of an active shooter. It is chilling. And then I just have to pivot to all the more need for us to do. We have a model that works. We got to keep it going.
CAMEROTA: Scarlett Lewis is also making change through the Choose Love movement she founded in honor of her son Jesse.
LEWIS: I realized that what happened to Jesse was 100 percent preventable, and that it was literally my responsibility to make sure that our kids are safe.
MURPHY: Thank you very much, Senator.
CAMEROTA: Senator Murphy says, fighting for change for the Sandy Hook families is his life's mission.
MURPHY: I'm just emotionally and psychologically connected to these families invested in this movement in a way that I've never been connected or invested in anything in my life. And I've said from the very beginning that, you know, the measure of my public service when I'm done with all of this will, you know, be determined what those handful of families in Sandy Hook and Hartford and Bridgeport, who've lost loved ones, think of the job I did.
CAMEROTA: Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis says she's moving forward with her life. But she will never move on.
KAITLIN ROIG-DEBELLIS, FORMER FIRST GRADE TEACHER, SANDY HOOK SCHOOL: It's a really, really important distinction because I think our society does a terrible job with grief and loss and trauma and tragedy, and we say, it's been 10 years. It must be easier. You went to therapy that must have helped so much. You're doing yoga how wonderful. I mean, and yes, all of those things are great to help yourself feel better.
But December 14th, 2012 is every second of every minute of every single day for me. and for many, many survivors.