In 2013 the Irish Emigrant newspaper and IrishCentral honored Lieutenant J. Paul Vance with the Irish Heroes of New England award in recognition of his role as commanding officer of the Connecticut State Police Public Information during the Sandy Hook tragedy.
In December 2012, a murderer armed with a riffle entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 children and six adults.
The awards was held in Boston at historic Faneuil Hall and honored those Irish Americans who showcased, through selfless acts of bravery and dedication, all that is good in the Irish American community.
On the horrific day in December, Vance was assigned to the command team and placed in charge of all media relations related to the tragedy. For ten days, Vance was the reassuring voice of reason, providing a steady stream of updates to the public and ensuring the families of the victims were kept informed at all times about new information related to the tragedy.
At the time Vance insisted that “the families are and will continue to be our first priority and they are always the first to receive information.”
As the first anniversary approached, Vance spoke about the impact this unthinkable tragedy had on him and his colleagues
He told the IrishCentral “The entire incident broke mine and every other first responder's heart...but we all knew we had to our jobs...and every single member of the investigative team did that.”
Although Vance is not a familiar Irish family name, the Lieutenant can trace his family roots back to Galway and says of his childhood “I was brought up in a traditional Irish Catholic family and with strong Irish traditions”.
Married for over 41 years, his wife Margaret Whelan Vance is also proud of her Irish heritage with her family origins in Athlone.
Speaking about being bestowed with the Irish Heroes of New England Award Vance says “I was humbled and honored to be selected as a recipient.
“I accept this award on behalf of all my brother Troopers who worked so very hard to respond to the scene....and investigate this horrible tragedy.”