For the first time since Hurricane Sandy devastated New Jersey's shoreline and a gunman opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., firefighter Bill Lavin feels OK.
For a while, the president of a 5,550-member New Jersey firefighters union said he felt "demoralized and crushed and depressed." But now he has new focus: building 26 playgrounds.
The effort led by the Firefighters' Mutual Benevolent Association will put playgrounds, one for each of the 20 children and six school employees who died in Newtown in December, will in states hit hardest by the storm -- New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.
The firefighters need to raise about $2 million.
"Everyone I spoke to had a tear in their eye," Lavin said. "And the response from the families validated that I needed to do this." He reached out to the families of all 26 shooting victims. The 16 he's heard back from are on board.
Jenny Hubbard, mother of Catherine, a Sandy Hook first-grader who was killed, sent a note thanking him for thinking of the idea. It was so fitting, she said. Her daughter loved Sundays because she got to go to the playground.
"She would climb and jump and swing so high, she was convinced she was touching the clouds," Hubbard wrote. "I know that she is thrilled with the prospect of having a park in her honor."
Each playground will have its own flair, a representation of the victims and the things they loved.
For Jessica Rekos, horses and whales. For Grace McDonnell, lots of peace signs. For Dylan Hockley, the color blue.
Lavin's idea was born before the young victims.