It's been a month since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, a very tough month for me (which is why a New Year's resolution to revive this blog was put on hold for a couple of weeks). If I still have any readers left who were with me when I began this blog, you know that I moved from Connecticut to Pennsylvania five years ago. What you may not know is that I moved from the village of Sandy Hook in Newtown, CT. I wrote on my Facebook page, but it's worth repeating, that I'm saddened that I will never again have this conversation:
"So, where did you live in Connecticut?"
"Newtown. You've probably never heard of it. Do you know Connecticut at all? It's between Danbury and Waterbury."
It's funny how life works. I hadn't been back to Sandy Hook for some time, but in early November, while in CT for Rebecca's baby shower, I had gone to Sandy Hook with Zoe's Mom (just after Hurricane Sandy had devastated other parts of Connecticut I know and love. 2012 was not a good year for the name "Sandy"), so I could meet the new tenants who are renting Bob's and my house and to take a "walk through" with them. Our old tenants -- former neighbors with 3 young boys -- had moved into a house not far away, but I hadn't seen them this go-round. My November visit reminded me of the early days of Bob's and my marriage (we moved there together the year we got married and lived there for 12 years), of questions about whether or not we should have children, of the neighbors we knew and loved, of the friends we made at Valley Presbyterian Church in nearby Brookfield (many of whom lived in Newtown, like we did. New England doesn't have many Presbyterian churches, and it was the only one in the area). Sandy Hook was a lovely little place to begin married life.
We've been away long enough that most of the kids we know are too old to have been in attendance at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14th, but we did know of six children (including our former tenants -- Bob and I used to babysit the oldest boy -- and Zoe's Mom's niece and nephew). We spent an agonizing two days waiting to hear whether or not they were all okay. Understandably, getting back to messages sent/left by Bob and Emily was not high on parents' priority lists at that time. We got final word when the list of victims was released late Saturday afternoon. Nobody we know personally was listed among the victims.
That is not to say we know anyone who hasn't been affected. It's a small community, one in which it's impossible to raise children and not to have known at least one, if not all, of the victims. We even heard from one friend who is a school nurse in the city of Bridgeport at a middle school. Her school was suffering that day because Sandy Hook's principal, who was identified early on, was married to one of their teachers. Our friend described how hard it was for her colleagues that day, suffering as they were, to try to hold it together for the students, all of whom were getting all kinds of misinformation via cell phones. Because Bob and I lived in Newtown for over a decade, I also happen to know young men and women (I still think of them as "kids" even though they're in their early twenties now) who went to school with Adam Lanza and his older brother Ryan. How sad for one young friend in particular when early reports identified Ryan as the gunman.
So, it's been a month, and I'm still grieving. I'm not as glued to the news about it as I was 3 and 4 weeks ago, but I still find myself crying at odd times. I expect to grieve for quite some time, especially when I think of all the kids I've known personally who spent their first few years of school at Sandy Hook Elementary. The last time I was at the school, I went to see a young friend play a lion in her kindergarten play -- a young friend who is now a middle schooler and who is pursuing drama, thanks, I like to think, to that experience.
I grieve for all those who have been left to pick up the pieces and to somehow find the bravery to keep on going. I've attended one funeral for a child in my lifetime, and it was devastating. I'd hate to have to do it again. I can't imagine attending funeral after funeral for those beautiful young children. I can't imagine being a parent who has to help a young child through the horror of losing so many friends. I can't imagine being the parent of an older child who wasn't at the school, but who is now afraid to go to school, and not for the typical reasons a 12-year-old kid might be afraid of going to school (someone might make fun of her shoes, say, or a teacher might ask a question she can't answer), but because school is now viewed as a potentially very dangerous place. No child should have his or her innocence rocked like that.
Selfishly, I will say that being down here in Pennsylvania, there have been times when I've felt quite alone in my grief. I'm learning more about human denial and dissociation than I ever cared to learn. People in my community here don't want to hear or talk about Newtown. Bob made it a focus of 2 sermons (the Sunday right after the shootings and the following Sunday), and a couple of people responded, "How much do we have to hear about Newtown? It's Christmas! Where's the Christmas joy?" I can forgive them (sort of) for their insensitivity. They don't want to think about it or talk about it (especially those who have kids of their own). I just hope no one is being that insensitive to the residents of Newtown. I also hope that those of us who are not in Newtown, don't just move on with our lives, heads in the sand, glad this horrific thing didn't happen in our own communities, forgetting that there is a lovely little town in Connecticut that will be grieving for a very, very long time. They deserve to remain in our thoughts and prayers.