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First, New Mexico’s Maggie Cordova Elementary, where Emilie first attended school, dedicated a garden in her memory.
Days later, on May 24, a small garden along the Ogden River Parkway was erected with a bench and a plaque commemorating the child.
In response to the outpouring of kindness and support the Parkers have received during the year after the Sandy Hook tragedy, Emilie’s mother, Alissa Parker, teamed up with producer Melissa Puente from Deseret Book to make a video about her family’s journey. The video, called “Evil Did Not Win” can be seen on Alissa’s blog, The Parker Five, at http://www.theparkerfive.wordpress.com.
"What we love about all of these projects is that they all pay it forward," Alissa said. "What is most meaningful to us is that we remember Emilie for the life that she lived and that these projects embody that life. Emilie loved seeing people happy. She loved to play and be silly, and these kinds of projects all share that common goal, and as parents there is no better way to see your daughter honored."
Last month, a playground in New London, Conn., was named "Emilie’s Shady Spot" in honor of the first-grader who preferred to play in the shade. Pink roofs adorn jungle gyms and pink monkey bars line the park. Everywhere there are flowers and pieces of Emilie’s artwork.
Every so often, the Parkers receive a photograph of the play area from someone in New London who wants to make sure the Parkers don’t miss the sights of children enjoying their daughter’s special place more than 90 minutes away from their home.
It’s one of 26 playgrounds that will be built across the Constitution State in honor of the Sandy Hook victims.
‘Evil didn’t win’ » Some days, the Parkers said, it takes all they have to accomplish the mundane: wake up, eat, take their two daughters Samantha, 4, and Madeline, 5, to the bus stop.
But rather than burying their feelings, the couple said, they try to embrace them. They try to show their younger girls that it’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to feel.
"[We] cry, talk, laugh, look at pictures," wrote Robbie Parker. "There are so many ways we process our emotions and every day is different depending on what it is about [Emilie] that we miss."
Before Emilie was killed, her parents were transforming a narrow "crawl space" in their home into a play area for their three children.
After the massacre, Alissa said, the crawl space sat untouched.
It was hard to look at, difficult to go near.
"It was meant for them all to share," Alissa said. "I felt like that joy had been stolen from me."
It wasn’t until summer that the Parkers decided to finish what they had started.
They decorated its walls with tall leaves of grass, pink flowers and butterflies.
A tiny table and two chairs are surrounded by photographs of Emilie’s face — smiling down on her sisters’ new play area.
A year after the Sandy Hook tragedy, the Parker family is healing.
"Evil only wins if we allow it to," Alissa said. "The world around us wants to remember the violence and horrific details of that day, but instead, we choose to turn off those distractions and allow ourselves to draw as close to her as we can and feel [Emily’s] spirit, joy and light she brought into our family."
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