The news of a school shooting shocked the world last week. For me though, it struck closer to home, because it occurred in my hometown of Newtown, Connecticut. Tucked away in a quiet corner of New England, we are all hoping to wake up one day and have this nightmare be over. As cliche as it sounds, things like this are just unheard of in Newtown.
I’ve lived in Newtown for as long as I can remember and the crime scandals always consisted of some broken mail boxes or trees with toilet paper on them. It is a safe town, period. And it still is. Growing up I always complained about how boring it was, but once I got to college my appreciation for being raised in Newtown grew exponentially, and after these events I could not be more proud to have grown up in such an amazing place.
It was just last week I was celebrating the end of the semester with my friends at college and someone asked me where I was from. When I said Newtown, CT I got the usual baffled looked so I said my go-to description of Newtown, “right outside of Danbury”. However, now when I say that I am from Newtown it will be drenched with infamy for all the wrong reasons. I just want Newtown to go back to the small All-American town that no one has heard of, hidden in Fairfield County.
I have coached youth track & field for years, worked at various summer camps, and took a childhood development class with children who were in the school that day, so the connection I have to the youth in my town is strong. Waiting for the names of victims to be released, I was playing the most horrific waiting game of my life. All we can do right now is pray, pray, and pray. Whether or not I knew them, dozens of innocent lives were lost.
The answers of why or how a tragedy of this severity happened is beyond comprehension. It is a mystery that will be eternally unsolved.
I spent hours on Friday packed in my church clenched arm-in-arm with my best friend as we tensely tried to hold back our tears, unsuccessfully. The stained-glass windows of the church had to be open so that people could crowd around them outside to listen to the service. Hundreds who did not fit into the church stood outside in the bitter December weather, singing songs such as Silent Night and Amazing Grace by candlelight. Seeing grown men so distressed that they are down on their knees sobbing just scratches the surface of what I've been seeing these past few days.
My heart physically aches for all of those affected. The parents that have Christmas presents, but no child to give them to. The siblings who now have to say they are an only child. The heroic teachers, staff, and law enforcement officials who had to see the horrific scene inside of the elementary school, that no one should ever have to see. The very same school that I have walked the halls of before.
The most important thing that I want you all to get out of this message, now that Newtown is known world-wide, I want you all to make sure you know my town for the right reasons. Please when you think of Newtown, think of it as one of the strongest towns in the world, because we are.
I can only wish for some light to come out of this situation. Newtown was so close-knit before, I know we will rally together and become stronger than ever in this time of healing. Our strength is a reflection of the character of our town. Besides the local support, I am overwhelmed with the national and global support we are receiving. Many of my friends around the country and abroad have reached out to me wondering where to send letters of support, if anyone knows an appropriate address that would be appreciated.
For many people around the world in a few weeks or months the tragedy of last week will slip into the back of their minds, but for me and my town it will forever be with us.
Newtown will forever be my hometown and forever be in my heart, and we will forever be Newtown Strong.