My name is Lenny Pozner.
On December 14, 2012, thirty minutes after dropping off my 6-year-old son at his elementary school, a mentally ill man stormed the Sandy Hook Elementary School in my small town of Newtown, Connecticut, systematically murdering 6 teachers and staff members and 20 little children. My son, Noah, was shot and killed in the classroom next door to his sisters.
That was undoubtedly the worst day of my life, but every day since has tied for second. As the youngest victim, the media focused on Noah; showing his picture over and over again on both news and opinion shows. His picture was used by both anti-gun and pro-gun advocates. Scammers used his picture to elicit donations from a horrified nation. Politicians used his picture to punctuate their platforms and advance their personal agendas. All of this was terribly upsetting to Noah’s mother and me, to my children, and to the other families of victims. However, nothing prepared me for the vitriol of the soulless opportunists that followed like carpetbaggers; the conspiracy theorists.
Almost immediately, YouTube videos and blog posts started emerging, claiming that the murder of my son and the other victims was a conspiracy perpetrated by the government in an effort to create a groundswell of support for gun removal. Self-appointed political pundits, calling themselves “truthers”, claimed among other things, that my son and indeed all of the victims and their families were “crisis actors” paid and trained by the government to stage the massacre. Others suggested that my child didn’t even exist. My son’s photo was desecrated online, his name and memory defiled, and our suffering decried.
In 2014, after 145 people, mostly children, were gunned down in their school in Peshawar, Pakistan, local mothers, in a show of solidarity with families globally, held up photo montages of children murdered in gun violence. Among those pictures, pulled off the internet was that of Noah. This reignited the conspiracy theorists.
In the depths of shock and added by grief, I made a decision that would forever alter our lives. I thought, “these people wouldn’t believe that Noah was an actor or that he never existed if they could see for themselves that he was a happy little boy.” So, in response to a post claiming that Noah never existed, I posted copies of his birth and death certificate, copies of his school records, and photos showing my happy baby throughout his six years of life. I honestly believed that once people could see that my boy was real and that he was cruelly taken from us, they would remove their posts and stop. I could not have been more wrong.
Information gleaned from the documents and news reports was used to hunt down my family, neighbors, and friends, to harass and terrorize them. Our social security numbers, credit reports, medical records, and other personal information has been posted online. Truther websites have issued orders to their followers to hunt us down, file fake, anonymous reports with the police, CPS; anything that they can do to harass and discredit me.
Family and friends have had to go into hiding. My family has had to move multiple times due to death threats so credible that one of the perpetrators was sentenced to prison. And yet, five years later, the threats and attacks are ceaseless. I have removed hundreds, if not thousands of YouTube videos, social media posts, and blog posts dedicated to defaming my son and hunting me. I have been branded a “hoaxer” hunter by the media, and have unwittingly followed a course of reaction to attacks that have led me to dark places. I tried to make myself available, stood up against the tyranny of self-appointed “truthers,” and essentially relived the horror over and over; all in an effort to prove to strangers that my baby existed.
On the fifth anniversary of Noah’s death, I decided to change my direction. Battling basement dwellers and snake oil salesmen don’t honor my son’s life. Embroiling myself in conflicts with the inconsequential and imbecilic doesn’t help me to find purpose again or to help others. So, I am rededicating myself with the goal of affecting changes in the law that will protect victims and their families from having their likeness, their private lives, and their very humanity stolen and used to advance the goals and enrich the bank accounts of others.
This will be Noah’s lasting legacy, the right for victims to have peace and dignity.