at Newtown High School for the first in a series of community forums to determine the fate of Sandy Hook Elementary School building following the school shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six adults. Parents and community members offered a variety of opinions, including the excerpts below.
"I'm the father of a Sandy Hook first grader, but also two four-year-olds who will be in there in a couple years. My daughter lost her best friend that day, and we lost a close family friend of ours. I'm not going to comment as to what I think should happen to the building. I think there's been a lot of good ideas presented here. But I wanted to make two comments. One, don't redistrict no matter what. Two, let's make a decision. We have to take the appropriate amount of time, I understand that -- we have to get opinions, and everybody's ideas -- a vote, or whatever the appropriate mechanism is to make a decision. Our children need stability. They lost a lot. And the faster we can make a decision ... as to what this school is like and who's going to be there, then they can start look forward and look to the future as well."
-- Glenn Shepherd
"I'm a Sandy Hook School mom. I have a fifth grader who graduated from Sandy Hook last year and a 2nd-grader who was in the building that day. My son wants to go back to Sandy Hook. He could not understand why we couldn't go back to the building. He does not like Chalk Hill, he spends a lot of time in the hug room and in the nurse's office. Having an upstairs has really been a negative for him, because there's furniture moving above their heads -- there's lots of noises that the kids are not used to in the building. We had an awful lot of triggers for kids who heard things that day ... However, I cannot ask those teachers to go back if they don't want to. I cannot ask friends whose children escaped that day from those two classrooms to go back. If people are going to be traumatized by going back into the building, I can't ask them to. I wonder whether or not we could build a new facility where the field is, and turn the school into a memorial park."
-- Christine Wilford
"My son was directly across from the affected rooms. He saw more and heard more than any child ever should, let alone any person ever should ... His best friend doesn't want to go back, and I would never want to make someone go back that doesn't want to. I also heard him say -- as the banging was happening -- 'I'd be surprised if today was the end of my days.' So I have a seven-year-old who contemplated his death at that moment. And before I came to this meeting, [he asked] 'I'm at Chalk Hill. How long am I going to be there? What's going to happen?' I said, 'The mommies and daddies are going to get together and talk about what's going to happen.' And he looked at me blank. He said, 'What do you mean? It's my school. What else would it be?'
I look at [how much he] took that day. He took their friends. He took their teachers. He took their sense of security. He took their innocence. He took their childhood. I don't want to give him the school ... I'm not saying my answer is right or wrong. I'm looking at it through the eyes of a child who just can't understand what else it could be."
-- Amy Taber, Sandy Hook mother
"I feel so touched and privileged to be among you all today, to hear the heartfelt and heartbroken sharings. To me, the fact that the whole town's heart was broken open -- and the fact it didn't just happen to us, it happened to the whole world -- was something quite remarkable and special. As we listen to all these different ideas, it sounds like they're in conflict. It's a conundrum. I think back to the history of this town, which has been at times very divisive. I would hate to see a 52-48% vote on what to do. In this broken-open space we're in, I think so much more is now possible. Whether we like it not, this town has changed. We can't go back to what things were ... Things might be possible now that nobody in this room has yet thought of. It's so raw still, it hasn't settled in, and there's a pressure to act and resolve and move forward.
My wish for us is that we stay in this decision until we find something that not only are we thrilled and delighted as a town that we've come up with something that works for us, but that when the world thinks of Newtown two years from now or five years from now ... they don't think of this as just where something awful happened. They think of this place where something amazing and beautiful happened. That's the legacy. That's the way we truly create a memorial to honor those lives that we lost."
-- Ben Roberts, Hawleyville resident