Doctor Focuses on Good Works to Keep Pain Away

Four months after three members of the Petit family were murdered in a Connecticut home invasion, the sole survivor, William Petit is remembering his wife and daughters by recognizing the good works of others.

Petit handed out the first Hayley and Michaela Petit Multiple Sclerosis Youth Award in honor of his two slain daughters late last week.

The award signifies 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela's dedication to fighting MS, which their mother, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, suffered from.

For William the ceremony and presentation of the award are also part of his healing process. His family's tragic story made national headlines in July, when pediatric nurse Jennifer and her two daughters were murdered. The family's home also was set ablaze, leaving William as the only survivor.

"You get tired of hearing about the 'horrific home invasion,'" Petit said in an exclusive interview with Ann Nyberg of ABC's New Haven affiliate WTNH. "It's nice to hear the good things sometimes and not always have the bad stuff in your face."

After such a dramatic set of events, the road to some semblance of normalcy for the doctor has been a difficult one.

"I'd be lying if, you know, there's days when I wake up and say, 'Oh my God, What am I supposed to do here?' 'Cause I don't know every day," William said. "It feels good some days, and it also feels like a heavy mantle."

"I think, 'I'm just a guy. I've had really, really bad luck. I didn't ask for this really, really bad luck,'" he added. "Then part of me says, 'Well you might as well try to help to make something good out of it because if there's evil, this was evil. So you just try to think about good things.'"

Candles to Light the Streets

The award, which was given out just two days before what would have been Michaela's 12th birthday Saturday, is William's way of continuing the fight the girls started.

Sixteen-year-old Connecticut resident Shane Smith was the first honoree. He has helped his mother cope with MS, just like the Petit girls.

Smith's recognition and action mirror Michaela's favorite quote, according to her father.

"'You must be the change you want to see in the world.' So you can't wait for someone else to do it, you have to start to be the change," William said. "I was just sort of blown away that an 11-year-old girl would put that up as her quote."

Each year the award is given it will be a symbol of the Petits, a way to keep them in the forefronts of people's memories.

"I certainly don't want anyone to forget," William said.

In the Petits' hometown, plans are under way for candles to light the streets in memory of the family, in order to "bring this community together, have them unlock their doors, come outside and look at the beauty of the lights. Feel at ease and be at peace," one organizer said.

For more information on the Petits' foundation click here.

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