NEWTOWN, CT -- It was an emotional testimony.
Newtown Superintendent Janet Robinson told a congressional committee Tuesday she was "here to give a face" to the children, families and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Speaking alongside a panel that included Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter and the mother of slain Gabrielle Giffords staffer Gabe Zimmerman, Robinson described the morning of December 14, 2012, when 20 children and six educators lost their lives, in intense detail.
"Sandy Hook Elementary School seemed like the safest place on Earth," she said. "That morning was like every morning." Addressing the visibly shaken audience, her voice remained steady as she described the heroic actions of the educators who lost their lives.
"None of these brave women were trained in combat," said Robinson. "They were elementary school educators dedicated to educating their young children. So their first response when confronted by this terror was to protect their children ... This loving little elementary school was helpless in the face of this assault."
Now Robinson and other Newtown school officials must look forward to an uncertain future in 2013.
"We as a community are struggling to pick up the pieces and determine what this new normal looks like," she said. Parents have requested reassurances that security won't wane as the months pass. Robinson said she's not sure what will become of the funds donated from around the world.
"What we need right now is to have things that make us feel safe," she said. "One of the things that would be immediately helpful would be SROs in the elementary schools."
With budget season at hand, school officials are working on securing grants to provide security, but she says grant money is limited. The district hopes to receive funding through a federal School Emergency Response to Violence grant.
"Hopefully we'll get some of those services, but they're not forever," she told Patch. "There's a timeline on them. I don't know what that timeline is ... But we need time to heal."
Robinson said she's sure legislators share her concerns.
"I felt they were truly interested when they heard the stories of the mother of the son that was killed, and heard my stories of Sandy Hook," she said. "They were moved and touched. They said, 'What can we do to help with healing, and what can we do to help our culture?'"
Just hours before Robinson's testimony, President Barack Obama introduced proposals to introduce universal background checks and renew bans on assault rifles. Robinson said an assault rifle ban "would be great," and hopes stronger checks and mental health care will prevent people from "slipping through the cracks."
"Think there's no question as a country we do not invest enough in providing training and early intervention in terms of mental health issues," she told Patch. "I really would like to see more of that. Look at what we do after the fact -- we put people in prison. Maybe if we had early interventions and training, we could have a more effective way of doing this in a healthier fashion."
Robinson's participation in the panel Wednesday left a mark on the audience as well.
"That deeply wounded community is fortunate to have a person of your strength and moral character," U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, co-chair of the committee, told her.