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New Jersey Federal Judge Esther Salas endured the unimaginable this past summer when a man posing as a deliveryman fatally shot her 20-year-old son Daniel at their home. Her husband Mark Anderl was also shot and injured. She spoke to "GMA's" Robin Roberts about her mission to protect judges and their families.
ROBIN ROBERTS: Welcome back to "GMA." We want to get right to our "GMA" cover story. US district court judge Esther Salas returning to the bench on Monday, seven months after her beloved son Daniel was murdered at their own home by a gunman who was targeting her. She has made it her mission to protect other judges and their families and calls her return a tribute to her son.
And we say good morning once again to Judge Salas. It is so good to see you. And we appreciate how your resilience and your strength, that of you and your husband. Can you tell us the emotions you were feeling when you returned to the bench yesterday and how it's a tribute to Daniel?
ESTHER SALAS: Well, good morning, Ms. Roberts. And let me start by saying that I need to take this opportunity to thank my brothers and sisters on the district court bench of New Jersey. They really have covered for me these last seven months.
And it's important to note that before Daniel's murder, we were six judges down. And we remain six judges down. And despite that, they covered for me and never once complained. So I'm blessed to be part of this federal family.
The return, it is bittersweet in a certain way, because I'm returning to a job that I love so much. But also because of this job, I lost my only son. And so it's hard to reconcile those emotions.
But I can tell you this-- I know Daniel would want me to come back. And I know that Daniel would want me to represent all women and Latinas everywhere and come back and show that I am not deterred. And I will not be frightened or afraid to do what I love to do, which is be a United States district court judge.
ROBIN ROBERTS: Yes, and the first Latina in New Jersey to do that. We know in your home state of New Jersey that Daniel's Law was passed to help protect the information of judges and other law enforcement. But in the US Senate in December, it did not pass. But you're not giving up, are you?
ESTHER SALAS: No, I'm not giving up. This Latina doesn't take no for an answer. And so I am continuing to fight for my brothers and sisters on the bench. And I am optimistic. We've had some wonderful news.
We know that Senator Menendez tweeted on February 22 that he is committed to seeing this through. We also saw that Senator Durbin also supports this bill and also supports it moving quickly. So I am optimistic that we will see the bill introduced very soon and that together we will see this necessary change happen. I remain optimistic while also remaining committed to the cause. And I really do hope to see this happen and hope to see it happen soon, Ms. Roberts.
ROBIN ROBERTS: Because as you know, Judge Salas, these threats are real. I mean, the gunman who murdered your son, you recently revealed that there was a file. And in that file was Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor's name, as well as a name of 12 other women judges. Chilling.
ESTHER SALAS: Yeah. He had a list in this file that was in a storage locker that he had secured. There was a Glock. There was ammunition. And there was an actual file on Justice Sotomayor that had a lot of open-source information on her. It also had a visitor guide to the Supreme Court.
I mean, this-- when we think about what this could have become and what thankfully it didn't, didn't come to fruition because of my son's bravery, because of my husband's bravery, a lot of people I think were spared. But I want to ensure that we spare all the men and women that serve on the bench, because all we're doing is our job. And we should be protected. And we should have laws that protect us and send a strong message.
ROBIN ROBERTS: Send a strong message-- and you are sending a strong message yourself. Can I just say that? The last time that we spoke, something that you said resonated with me and so many, forgiving the gunman, saying hate is heavy, love is light. How are you getting through these challenging times?
ESTHER SALAS: I have to say that there are-- there's so many things that have helped me in this journey. You and "GMA" and all the press that we've gotten in the sense that you've allowed me to not only do what I need to do to have meaningful purpose after all of this, but you've also allowed me to tell my story, which is very cathartic. But mostly, God and my family and my loved ones that have surrounded me and enveloped me all this time since this horrific incident.
And I can only say that I am so blessed. And Mark and I are so blessed that we can see the good. We can see the wonderful things that have happened since. And we will never forget our son.
One of the things I want to make sure people understand is that I'm moving forward but not moving on. Daniel remains with me always in my heart, in my soul. And he is with me.
And so I say to anyone who's suffering a loss, stay strong. Stay committed to your faith. And rely on those that love you to help you. Ask for that help.
ROBIN ROBERTS: Yeah, amen, moving forward, not on. That is so, so poignant. I know that Mark is still recovering from his injuries. Please give him our best. And thank you for your story of hope. Thank you for you and Mark for continuing on.
ESTHER SALAS: Thank you so much, Ms. Roberts.
ROBIN ROBERTS: We'll keep in touch.
ESTHER SALAS: Thank you so much, Ms. Roberts. And I hope to. I hope to.
ROBIN ROBERTS: We certainly will.
ESTHER SALAS: God bless.
ROBIN ROBERTS: God bless you. Now that--