Newtown shooting victim loved Winnipeg, say parents

Ana Márquez-Greene, who died in the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., loved the time she spent in Winnipeg before the family moved back to the United States, according to her parents.

Six-year-old Ana was one of 20 children and six staff members at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School who were shot and killed on Dec. 14, 2012, by a gunman who later took his own life.

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Ana's nine-year-old brother, Isaiah, was in a classroom at the school on the day of the shooting, but he made it out without injury.

The Márquez-Greene family had lived in Winnipeg for three years before moving to Newtown in July 2012.

In their first Canadian interview since the shooting, Ana's parents, Jimmy Greene and Nelba Márquez-Greene, told CBC News they are grateful for the support they have received from people in the Manitoba capital.

"So many thoughtful cards, so many thoughtful people. It's really amazing," said Greene.

In the weeks following the shooting, the parents received tens of thousands of of cards and letters, expressing condolences and support. Many of them came from Canada.

About 30 people from Winnipeg, including Ana's best friend, travelled to Connecticut for her funeral in December, while vigils were held in the city.

As well, someone from the Whyte Ridge Baptist Church, where the Márquez-Greenes were members, has been assigned to pray for the family every day.

"Thank you for loving us, thank you for supporting us," Greene said.

"Please keep praying for us because even six months out, this is very, very painful and very difficult. And we need your prayers and support, now more than ever."

Chris and Karen Schroeder are friends with the Márquez-Greenes in Winnipeg, and their six-year-old daughter, Abby, was Ana's best friend.

"We're their Canadian family and we told Jimmy and Nelba … that family does the long haul together, and that's what we're going to do," Karen Schroeder said.

Ana was a vibrant and passionate girl who loved life, learning and anything purple and sparkly, the Schroeders said.

These days, Abby has a snow globe featuring a winged dancer — one of several items she has to remember Ana with.

"Her joy isn't the same. Our daughter is a very joyful person, and we can tell that it's different since Dec. 14, for sure," Karen Schroeder said.

Greene and Márquez-Greene are both Americans, but they came to Canada to work.

Greene, a jazz musician, taught music at the University of Manitoba, while Márquez-Greene was a family therapist at the University of Winnipeg.

The family moved back to Connecticut after Greene was hired to teach at a university there.

"She was born here in Connecticut, but when asked about her ethnicity or her culture, she would say, 'I'm African-American, I'm Puerto Rican and I'm Canadian.' She considered herself part Canadian," Greene said of Ana.

Márquez-Greene said Ana enjoyed many things about Winnipeg, including the places where she studied.

"Oh, she loved her school! She loved her preschool she attended — Little Lambs and then Linden Christian School. She loved her dance school, Shelley Shearer School of Dance. That was her place," Márquez-Greene recalled.

"The Manitoba Museum, the candy train — there were so many things about Winnipeg that she loved. And when we go back, we're going to make sure to visit all those places, in her honour."

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