NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A street in Queens was renamed Saturday to honor a little boy killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn.
As WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported, children and adults alike had tears in their eyes as they held one another, at the heartbreaking ceremony at intersection of Queens Boulevard and 41st Street in Sunnyside. A stretch of 41st Street was renamed at the ceremony for Benjamin Wheeler, 6.
He was one of the 20 first-graders killed when gunman Adam Lanza opened fire at the school on Dec. 14. Six adults were also killed before Lanza turned the gun on himself.
Benjamin’s grief-stricken father, Dave Wheeler, recalled his son’s short life.
“Ben was just 6,” Wheeler said. “He just learned how to tie his shoes.”
The intersection is the very site where Benjamin spent his first year of his life, before his family moved to Connecticut.
“These are the blocks where Ben first saw the world when he came home from Roosevelt Hospital, and now this street will bear his name,” Dave Wheeler said.
Ben’s mother, Francine Wheeler, and older brother, Nate, hugged one another throughout the ceremony.
Nate pulled the cord to reveal the new sign along 41st Street, reading “Benjamin Wheeler Place.”
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-26th), U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), and state Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Queens) were also in attendance.
Ben adored his older brother, Nate, and together, the pair made enough noise for four children, his family has said. At school, he often ran across the soccer field long after it was necessary, but smiled and laughed as he moved the ball “nearly always at full tilt.”
Ben was also becoming a skilled swimmer and loved his lessons. He was thrilled to get to school to see his teacher and his many friends in his first grade class.
Ben was also a member of Tiger Scout Den 6, which met at the Sandy Hook Volunteer Firehouse.
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Earlier in December, he had performed in a piano recital, and reveled in his ability to sit long enough to play one piece.
On Saturday Ben’s family thanked those in attendance at the unveiling, CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson reported.
“Your kindness and your generosity cannot be overstated or undervalued. You quite literally have kept us standing,” David said.
He reflected on the symbolism of the sign and its meaning in the wake of his son’s death.
“A sign is a marker that tells you where you are. It orients you and leads the way. This sign will show us where we can eventually go as people,” he said.
Among the crowd were lifelong friends who have worked to help the Wheelers cope with Ben’s death.
“For me it was witnessing people at the door of hell and what is so inspiring to me is that they still stood,” family friend Gretchen Shmeltz said.
On a day filled with tears there were some smiles when the family was given their own street sign to take home.
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