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A Father Humbled By The Too-Short Life Of His Daughter

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Aired 12/16/12

Her name was Emilie Parker. Six years old. Long, flowing blonde hair, piercing blue eyes and a sweet smile. Emilie was one of the 20 children killed on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As we learn the names of the victims, we're also learning their stories.

Emilie could light up a room. That's how her dad, Robbie Parker, remembers her. He says she loved to try new things - with one exception: food. She was bright and creative, he says, and was a talented artist who carried around her markers and pencils.

"I can't count the number of times that Emilie noticed someone feeling sad or frustrated and would rush to find a piece of paper to draw them a picture or write them an encouraging note," Parker told reporters Saturday night.

Parker says his oldest daughter had a gift. A compassionate streak -- especially when it came to her two younger sisters, ages 3 and 4. She was a mentor, teaching the middle sister to read and the younger one to make crafts. And, he says, the siblings' bond went deeper.

"They looked to her when they needed comfort," Parker said. "Usually that's saved for a mom or dad. But it was really sweet to see the times when one of them would fall or get their feelings hurt. How they would run to Emilie to get support or hugs and kisses."

Parker stood before reporters last night, his eyes puffy and red. Pausing at times, he smiled as he talked about Emilie and remembered his last conversation with her: a brief chat before he dashed out for work on that terrible Friday.

"She woke up before I left. I'd been teaching her Portuguese. So her last conversation was in Portuguese. She told me good morning and asked how I was doing. Said I was doing well. She said that she loved me. Gave me a kiss and I was out the door," Parker said.

Parker went to work -- in the newborn intensive care unit of a local hospital. He says he and his wife haven't come to grips with what happened and why.

"She always had something kind to say about anybody," he said. "Her love and the strength she gave us and the example she showed us is remarkable. She is an incredible person and I'm so blessed to be her dad."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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