Ana Grace Marquez-Greene’s love for singing was evident before she was even able to talk.
“In a musical family, her gift for melody, pitch, and rhythm stood out remarkably,” Ana’s family said in her obituary.
“She never walked anywhere! Her mode of transportation was dance. She danced from room to room and place to place. She danced to all the music she heard, whether in the air or in her head. Ana loved her God, loved to read The Bible, and loved to sing and dance as acts of worship.”
Ana could sing “Come, Thou Almighty King” with a pitch and style that was “perfect”, said her mother Nelba Márquez-Greene. There’s a video of Ana performing that song, to the piano played by brother Isaiah.
The six-year-old was at her Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012 when a gunman broke in and shot and killed her and 19 other children and six adults there.
Before that Dec. 14 massacre, Ana had not known a day without love, Nelba said. “She was the glue that held our family together.”
The love Ana has left behind is overwhelming till now, Nelba says. “I walk into a room and I still make people cry,” she adds.
In the wake of their daughter’s death, Nelba and her husband Jimmy Greene, a saxophonist and college professor in music, founded the Ana Grace Project. Their aim is to promote “love, community and connection for every child and family through three lead initiatives: partner schools, professional development, and music & arts,” according to the project’s website.
The organization has partnered with others, including The Child Trauma Academy, Klinberg Family Centers and Clifford Beers Clinic, to train participants of mental health conferences, safety conferences and other platforms in an effort to stress the need for support and how to go about giving it.
The Ana Grace Project also offers a memorial music scholarship for incoming Western Connecticut State University freshmen.
Earlier this year a new arts magnet school opened in Bloomfield, where the family lived prior to a move to Canada and then Sandy Hook. The new school is named Ana Grace Academy of the Arts and is supported by The Ana Grace Project.
“This is greater than any vision I would have had,” said Nelba at the opening of the school, which includes 830 students and 120 preschool students. “It’s because of the relationships. You can have a building without a soul. This building has a soul because of the people.”
As a family, the Greenes are still processing the grief of moving on without Ana.
In a New York Times opinion piece published in July 2022, Nelba wrote:
“We knew we wouldn’t get a wedding, graduation or another birthday with Ana Grace. Instead, we channeled all our love into her funeral. Her coffin was driven by a horse and carriage and we played music at her service. Nearly a decade later, my husband and I are raising Isaiah, and fighting for moments of normalcy and joy amid the grief that is always there. We have a school, we have scholarships, we have stayed whole.”