Paignton-born artist Hannah's memorial to 27 who died in school shooting
PAIGNTON-BORN artist Hannah Perry, who now lives near the Sandy Hook Elementary School in America, is organising a moving tribute to the children and teachers who died.
Mother-of-two Hannah, 33, runs a children's art centre and lives just 10 minutes drive from Sandy Hook, the scene of December's shooting in which 27 were killed.
A fortnight after the massacre Hannah was invited to go to Sandy Hook as part of an art therapy event to help pupils coming to terms with the tragedy.
Hannah, whose father Keith Perry still lives in Paignton, said: "We are only a few miles away from Sandy Hook — it's not even a 10 minute drive from here. It has been so awful.
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"Some of my customers' children lost friends. It's really upsetting.
"Even this long afterwards, people are still very upset and if they start talking about it, they start crying.
"I was asked to go to Sandy Hook about two weeks after it happened to do an art therapy event because they were trying to give the children a fun day.
"I didn't really want to go because I knew I would be really upset.
"To see all the memorials, with their children's faces, and flowers, and tributes from their families, it was awful. After I left, as I walked out, and I had to pass them all and I couldn't stop sobbing."
Now Hannah is organising 27 artists who are each making giant hearts, one in memory of each of the children and teachers.
The heart which Hannah is making will be dedicated to six-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene — one of the 20 children and seven women killed when the gunman opened fire in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14.
Hannah said: "Ana's mother started writing a blog and I find myself constantly reading it because you want to know how the families are doing, and she writes how she's feeling every day.
"You cannot ignore it. It's right here and you try not to talk about it because it's too upsetting. People say it's too new and raw still."
Hannah's heart project has been welcomed by artists all over America. Each is decorating an individual metre-wide wooden heart.
"Some of the artists actually have connections to the families or teachers who died," Hannah said.
"Everybody keeps writing that they want to do something to help and the artists say they are grateful, and so I'm pleased t I've been able to come up with an idea which helps a bit."
Eventually the hearts will go on show at the Sandy Hook Art Centre for Kids (SHACK) which is for all the children who are directly affected.
"Hopefully the hearts will finally go to the school itself, or be auctioned off to raise money for the families."
Hannah has an 11-year-old son and an 18-month-old daughter.
She said: "When my son got off the bus the day it happened, all the schools were on lock-down afterwards and I was really worried, but we weren't allowed to go to school to bring them home.
"When my son Harrison came in the house I was just hugging him and he was asking me what was wrong. I just said 'nothing'. It makes you feel really grateful because it could have been any one of our schools."