After Tragedy, Additional Adversity for One Newtown Family

After Tragedy, Additional Adversity for One Newtown Family

By Lenny Pozner

December 14 marked the one-year anniversary of the murder of my six-year-old son, Noah, at Sandy Hook Elementary School. High-profile anniversaries mean different things to the public than to the “Newtown parents” like me: The media is inclined to focus on stories of perseverance and progress, because that’s what the public wants to believe. The families know that healing is not a linear process. Our recovery from tragedy is detoured by unimaginable sadness, unexpected obstacles and devastating setbacks. Most days, it doesn’t feel like progress at all. 

Tragedy numbs you, but it also makes you alert to the kindness of neighbors and friends. In the days that followed Noah’s murder, the Newtown community came together. Friends opened up their homes to us. People helped my family and my two girls in more ways than I can describe. Their support was the norm, and we remain grateful for the community’s response.

My wife Veronique and I were so beaten down by the shockwave of grief—we were both suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)—that we really couldn’t function. We faced additional challenges because Veronique and I were separated. We were living separately at that time. We shared custody, splitting the week in half. They were with me the night before. I made sure Noah and his siblings did their homework and were in bed on time. I drove Noah to school that morning. 

December 14 shattered us, and left us vulnerable in ways we could not have imagined.

In the days that followed Veronique’s family flew out from the West Coast. In short order Veronique’s brother, Alexis Haller, began to meet with the media, which was hungry for any and all information on the families. He was interviewed by a number of news outlets, including the NY Daily News, the Associated Press and Anderson Cooper on CNN. In the process, we lost our voice and became spectators to our own grief. 

Alexis and his wife Victoria established a website to solicit donations for our family, a trust fund for the children, and created a mailing address in Newtown for correspondence that was forwarded to them in Washington state. Victoria, who hardly knew my son, began tweeting and blogging about Noah and directing potential donors to the website. The public responded graciously, sending donations, made out to Veronique and me, or the Pozner family, along with sympathy mail and toys and teddy bears for my children. Unfortunately, none of these items made their way to us. My brother-in-law, who also hardly knew Noah, anointed himself the family spokesman and decision maker. 

A series of family disputes ensued, many of which have played out in the press. When we attempted to access the donations, Alexis and his wife would not release them. We had to hire an attorney in early 2013 to gain access to and control over what rightfully belonged to our family. Still, Alexis continued to appear before the media even though I  had asked him repeatedly in December and January to stop. Finally, in February we had to appeal to the press to say Alexis’ comments were his own and did not represent the views of my family. His behavior made our unimaginable hell even worse. 

There were other difficulties that did not make the news, thankfully. A month or so after Noah’s murder, Veronique received a letter from her ex-husband attempting to gain more control of finances based on their divorce 13 years earlier. He threatened to take her to court. 

At about the same time, I was sued by someone with whom I had a business dispute three years earlier. When he read that a charity was distributing several million dollars to the Sandy Hook families, he assumed every family was receiving millions of dollars and sued me for $100,000. By this point Veronique and I had engaged multiple attorneys: two to deal with Alexis, one for the ex-husband, and one for my ex-business associate, all while mending a fractured marriage, and tending to a parent in the last stages of a terminal illness. We moved through our days in a fog.

These problems were unique to our household. Others affected all the Newtown families. The media coverage, for example, was often inaccurate, especially with regard to the details around the shooting, sometimes fueling crazy conspiracy theorists I’ve read about and encountered. 

Earlier this year, I stopped at a major chain hotel with my family in tow. I was in the process of registering when the twenty-something girl at the counter looked at my driver’s license and said, “Oh, Sandy Hook. The government did that.” I was able to shrug it off—she obviously didn’t know who I was—but it was painful to hear such a misguided opinion.

Such attitudes are driven in part by inaccuracies in the media. One article in the Jewish Daily Forward written the day after the shooting stated that Noah had been shot 11 times, which was untrue. I asked the reporter to make a correction and she refused. This inaccuracy became a fact that was repeated in future coverage, referenced numerous times as an extreme example of crimes committed with semi-automatic weapons. I even heard that politicians referenced it in their speeches, using this ‘fact’ to further their agendas. But this was my son they were talking about, and they were getting it wrong.

Finally, there are the inevitable scams. Nouel Alba, a woman in the Bronx, posed as Noah’s aunt—Alexis’ wife Victoria Haller—and solicited donations for what she referred to as a “funeral fund.” In truth, Noah was buried within two days of the shooting, as is Jewish tradition. In October of this year, Alba was convicted of fraud and sentenced to eight months in prison. 

Veronique and I no longer live in the Newtown area. After December 14, it was apparent we would need to start a new life elsewhere. The murder of our son brought us back together. The life we were living before December 14 no longer applied. Whatever our values were back then—whatever compelled us to seek a divorce—was no longer important to us on December 15. 

Now, as we close in on the anniversary, the days get even harder. On November 20 we celebrated the seventh birthday of Noah’s twin sister, Arielle, and that was very tough. We made it a positive day because it’s her birthday. We had a cake for Arielle and we added seven candles for Noah. Arielle made a wish for herself and another for Noah. 

We are braced for the wave of attention that will inevitably accompany this horrific anniversary. We know we can do nothing to stop it. We know that this attention will focus on things that have more to do with various agendas and pat conclusions than with the murder victims, including Noah, who would have just turned seven.

As draining as 2013 has been for me and Veronique, we are optimistic that the worst is behind us. We will finally properly honor and mourn Noah. A killer took from us our son, and family members took from us our energy to grieve, but no one can take away our memories of Noah and our determination to keep him alive in our hearts.

Lenny Pozner

21 thoughts on “After Tragedy, Additional Adversity for One Newtown Family”

  1. This must have been hard to post. Thank you for trusting your Google+ followers with an insight into your battle with grief over the loss of Noah. Though I think of Noah every day, sometimes it is seeing something or experiencing something that brings him to mind, sometimes to tears. The hardest was when I saw a little boy in a jacket like Noah’s. How much harder it must be for your family, when this happens to me and I have never met Noah! My thoughts are always with you, and I, too, hope 2014 brings better times to your family.

  2. Ican’t even begin to imagine the hell you and Veronique have been through. I hope that 2014 will bring light to the darkness you have had to endure. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us during this difficult time. You and veronique have our love and support.

  3. Dear Lenny and Veronique,

    I cannot ever fathom the depth of your struggles over there past year and I’m deeply troubled that such insult could be added to an unbearable injury.  Sadly, there are terrible people who prey on the misfortune of others even our own family members who should be bolstering us up not tearing us down.  I cannot imagine how any human being would assume first that you have profited from this horror and that they had any right to lay claim on what little you received intended to assist you.  

    As always, I support you and Veronique in whatever meagre way  I can.  If anything positive has come of this, I am so glad to hear that you are reconciled and unified in forging forward together as a family.  Perhaps it is naive of me, but I do believe that you will rise above all of this and there will be justice.  I continue to believe that we can all be better and do better for ourselves and our fellow man every day.  The bar has to not only be raised, it needs to come off the ground.   It’s simply not ok continue to propagate a self motivated society.  We are by nature relational, we are all in this together.

    I think about you all and Noah,…all the time.

    My kindest regards,


  4. I have no words Lenny..that was so heartfelt ..Praying for Noah and that God will send good things your way..”Blessed are those who mourn” for they shall be comforted”

  5. Having a son who was in a first grade classroom on 12/14/12 I remember waiting for the bus to get him home that day. A note came home with his teacher saying he complained of the chills and hoped he wasn’t getting sick well he did come home sick but my heart was with the families still waiting to hear about their loved ones. Never in my life had the loss of people I never knew or met impact me the way 12/14 did. When I learned of my 1st husbands death I was with work in WI. I called home & got our answering machine. I listened to the messages and he missed an appointment that morning, then phone calls from friends saying they had heard what had happened & wanted to know what they could do. I didn’t know what happened but by now I knew it wasn’t good. I finally reached someone at his work and they said sorry he was gone. I was what do you mean he’s gone gone where? They told me about the accident. I can’t imagine having to deal with conspiracy people as I was trying to put my life back together. I remember the first time someone had said something about it. I looked it up and could not believe the off the wall stuff they were saying. I at that point wanted to know as much as I could about the lives taken that day. I want to thank you for sharing your grief with us as most people with a brain and a heart continue to share your grief even never meeting you or knowing Noah. I also thank the Barden, Soto Hockley, Kowalski and Marquez-Greene families for being as open and sharing as well. I am glad you and your wife are working on repairing your marriage as something like this often destroys marriages. Again thank for sharing you memories and we will help you keep Noah alive in spirit. On 12/13 my boys wore Sandy Hook Angel Project pins to school to honor Noah, his 19 classmates and 6 educators. Hoping 2014 & the coming years are better for you… Looks like you have a pretty good cyber support here as well. Hugs from Illinois here.

  6. I was just thinking of you guys today and wondering how you really were doing, i know that you can only share so much due to the unwanted celebrity status that this tragic event has brought. I find myself often wondering if you are able to experience joy in the midst of the trial, I pray for peace for you every day, and a good nights rest, as well as wondering about how the girls are handling things. I really do think and pray for you every single day. Trying to imagine your grief, it saddens me that he is gone and gone so tragically, I often ask The Lord why he has allowed me to grieve so greatly for Noah and your family, I wonder how it’s possible to have the kind of grief and sadness i do at times for people I don’t know. I havent shared bc i dont want to make it about me, but I identify bc i had a first grader at the time of the tragedy, and noah also reminds me so much of my 5 yr old and that it makes it close to my heart, but ultimately, I know The Lord allows me to grieve like this because he wants me to continue to pray for your family, because he loves you, even if it doesn’t feel that way, he has raised up many genuine individuals to pray and think and care for you, my part is to pray and so I do. I wish I could do more. I am glad you posted this, a very real look into your hearts. Thank you.

  7. Hi Lenny,

    Thank you for sharing so much. I am sorry that there are people out there who saw this as a way to make money. I guess I am not nieve enough to believe there are con artists like that Bronx women, but for relatives and people who knew you, just too cruel. I never met Noah, his classmates and teachers, but they are forever in my heart. I am so sorry some of the people who should have been there for you and Veronique, betrayed you. I hope it helps there are so many strangers all over the world praying for you and your little Noah. And always will . God Bless his soul, God Bless your family.

  8. Wow. Thank you for sharing so deeply and personally with us. In the midst of such unbearable grief and suffering, the fact that you and Veronique are reconciled is such a shining light. I can honestly say that 12-14-12 changed me. Profoundly. In ways that I believe truly, truly matter. You and your family, and all of the families, are with me every day as I walk my path. Noah, his friends, and his heroic educators made a difference. Their lives mattered!!!! And they will never, ever be forgotten. Noah – a little boy I never met –  will forever be a part of me. Thank you for Noah!! =)

  9. Your ” determination to keep Noah alive in our hearts”. This is exactly how I picture you. I’m thankful that you & your wife are reconciled. Thank you for your strength in sharing a small part of what you have been enduring since Noah’s death. I think of you both a lot & wonder how you are going. I am sorry that you have gone through it at all, sorry that things have been so very very difficult.

    I wish to Heaven above that none of this had ever happened to you or the other families who lost a child at school that day. Or to the many more who have lost a loved one due to shooting since.

    Know that there are so many who care for you & Noah’s loved ones. Doesn’t matter if we have never met & never will, what matters is we care & we will never forget Noah. Ever.

  10. My hope for you and your family is that God wraps his arms around each of you and gently moves each of you through the rest of your journies here on earth. Love and prayers to everyone…

  11. Thank you for sharing your feelings about the loss of your beloved son, Noah and the ensuing events.  It sounds like you have had your share of heartache, before this tragedy and I am sorry to hear that.  Hope this year brings more peace to your beautiful family.  Will always think of Noah.

  12. Whitney Straub..that was beautiful..Noah has stolen everyones Heart..I too am a better person and pray more than ever..I guess every cloud has a silver lining..Noah has everyone praying..Thank You Noah..We love you like our own..

  13. Mr. Pozner-

    Thank you for sharing with us. I am so sorry to hear that on top of the loss of beautiful Noah, you’ve had to deal with the lawsuits and the betrayal of your brother in-law. As I may have mentioned in another post, my fiance’ taught Noah (and his sisters) at CAC, and therefore we attended his funeral. That day is forever etched into my mind, and although I never knew Noah, nor heard his voice or laughter, he sometimes visits in my dreams. He’s a classmate of my nephew, who is actually 1 year older than Noah. I hope that doesn’t sound weird, but I feel like it’s his way of saying “thank you” for coming to pay our respects.

    As for the diagnosis of PTSD, I was recently diagnosed myself. At first, my psychiatrist believed it was from 12/14. Although I did not know any of the precious souls lost that day, I remembered the shooter from high school (barely, but enough to make my skin crawl) and had nightmares about that day from time to time. However, I find myself frustrated with it, because my PTSD truly came about when my 52 year old father died suddenly back in 2008. I was only 17, about to graduate high school, and then he was gone. It frustrates me because I think of your family and the other 25 families who were so tragically affected that dark day that December, and I think how unfair it is that both situations can earn such a diagnosis. Such different situations, though both unexpected, but my father was not murdered, and he was also not a child. Someone’s child, yes, but not a young boy who hadn’t even gotten to live his life yet. Sometimes I feel guilty for feeling the way I do, in comparison, yet both were traumatic experiences, especially because we never saw them coming. I like to think that my father is watching over the 20 children up in heaven, playing baseball with the boys, and painting the little girls’ fingernails, as he did when I was little for me. That gives me some peace of mind. 

    I’m sorry if my post has upset you at all. I think of Noah often, especially when my nephew wears an Annoying Orange or Angry Birds t-shirt. I wish your family peace and happiness, although I know happiness is a bit harder to come by. I wish I could have met him, he must have been an amazing little boy. God Bless you and your family, and of course, Noah. <3

    -Michelle Saviano

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