CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- She is tiny - speaks calmly, is polished and concise with her story.

"We are all about empowering communities to make schools as safe as we can," Michele Gay tells a room full of people at the Caramel Country Club.

But make no mistake. She is also genuine, with a genuinely powerful message.

"There was a day when we sent three beautiful daughters off to school and only two returned," she says.

Her youngest, Joey, was Autistic - non-verbal, but always so happy.

"She was amazing, a ball of energy and joy. Very silly, very funny, always smiling."

Joey was a second grader at Sandy Hook Elementary.

"Unfortunately in that classroom, there was only one survivor in the whole class, including the two teachers who were lost as well."

Now this former second grade teacher, turned stay-at-home mom has become an unlikely activist.

"Our tragedy is one that we'll carry with us for forever. We will always have broken hearts over this. It's something we have to live with but in order to be able to live with it, we need to be able to use it and the way that we've chosen to use it is to help other people make sure it doesn't happen in their community."

Michele and another mom founded Safe and Sound, a non-profit with a seemingly simple mission - to make schools safe.

"I know it's her legacy that we look to build and carry on through this work."

She often remembers the bed time conversation she had with her 7 year old the night before she was killed. Michele was struggling to figure out what was bothering the daughter that always struggled to communicate.

"I promised her I wouldn't give up on her and I wouldn't give up on the hardships of life, so I got to keep that promise. I have to not give up," she says.

If you'd like more information on the safe schools initiative, check out

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