FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - In a home with holiday decorations noticeably absent, Jeremie Parker looked tired. He has been awake he says for the better part of two days.
When news of a shooting at a school in Connecticut first broke, he wondered how close his brother's family lived to Newtown. He sent a text message to his sister-in-law. The reply said "Emilie's injured. That's all we know."
He scoured the first pictures from the scene, looking for any sign that his niece was alive. It was several more hours before Parker learned the six-year-old was one of the 20 children killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
1,600 miles away, Parker said he did the only thing his niece would have wanted him to do. The middle school teacher went back to work, as a referee for a basketball tournament. She would have been mad if he didn't, he said.
Much like her father described her Saturday, in some of the first public remarks from the victim's families, Parker said his niece made a mark on anyone who knew her. The freckle-faced, blonde, blue-eyed girl was so friendly even to strangers, her father often worried about it, Parker said.
"She would light up a room," he said. "You wouldn't need lights. She just walked in and the lights would turn on because she would be there."
When Parker and his wife Julie were struggling to start a family, it was Emily they learned who had added them to her nightly prayer. She didn't just do it once. She had done it for six months before Robbie Parker told his older brother about it. When Julie became pregnant, one of the first calls, was to Emilie.
It was difficult to open the letter than came in the mail Saturday from Connecticut, Parker said, because they knew what it was. The family Christmas card had arrived. The picture of Emilie was the first one they saw.
The tears that fall on and off right now, however, are not coming out of anger Parker said. They don't believe Emilie would be angry. She would be worried about the shooters family, concerned about the loss of others, and eager to focus on anyone but herself. A blessing, Parker said, will come out of this.
"She considered everybody her family, and that's Emilie. She's a great angel in our lives."
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