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When 'Where are you From?' Becomes a Loaded Question

When the answer to 'Where are you from?' is Newtown

Given that I tend to enjoy skiing apart from my more advanced family and friends, I spent a fair amount of time over our recent vacation riding chair lifts and grabbing lunch alongside strangers.  Consequently, I was asked numerous times where I lived.  The following are the initial replies I received after answering the question:

  • I’m so sorry. (Three times)
  • Oh my God!! (Once)
  • Oh no. (Twice)

You see, I live in Newtown, CT.  That was all that needed to be said.

On the last of our five days, a friend and fellow Newtowner traveling with us overheard me respond to an affable fellow in the lodge with a different answer.  This time I simply replied that I was from Connecticut.

By that point in the trip I had had enough of the inevitable comments and follow-up questions. “Did you know anyone? “What is it like there now?” ”This must be so hard.”

 A group of us had come to Vermont to “breathe” for a few days and a number of “head clearing” lift rides and calming cups of hot chocolate had already been tainted by difficult conversation with inquiring strangers.

Later, at the house we were sharing, my friend remarked that he had mixed feelings when he heard me omit the name of our town.  While understanding my choice at the moment, he feared our becoming timid over this atrocity. While not wanting to wear it as a badge, he nonetheless wished to embrace our special town regardless of the resulting reactions.

He’s right, of course; for many reasons but primarily for this:

Since December 14th, something extraordinary, something distinctive, something long lasting has begun to emerge from this heartbreak.  While we Newtowners may always be well-known for this event, I suspect we will also come to be recognized as the months and years progress for something much more.  It’s in the air. People are banding together with open minds and open hearts.  They are generating ideas, expressing conviction and turning feelings into action.

Maybe the dialogue on the slopes, in the lodges, all over the country will someday go something like this:

“Where are you from?”

“Newtown, CT.”

“Cool.  It’s pretty impressive what was accomplished after that shooting.  Your town is an inspiration.” 

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Dorothy January 03, 2013 at 01:06 AM
Love this Suzy!
John Chapito January 03, 2013 at 04:12 AM
Suzy, I'm glad you made this post. I have been dealing with this topic personally over the past few weeks. I am 23 and a Sandy Hook resident of 10 years. Me, and all of my siblings have been and are participents in Newtown sports. And, as would be expected, my family owns an entire truck-load of "Newtown attire". The majority of my family (excluding myself) went on holiday to Florida for the Xmas-New Years holiday. Most were wearing Newtown sports attire, as they always do... Upon pick up in New Haven today, many of the stories had to do with sympathetic condolances from strangers having heard of my family's hometown. I myself have had thoughts about such a tradgedy being a "black dot"... but in the end... I think Newtown will be better than ever
Dee Dee January 03, 2013 at 12:54 PM
Suzy we had the same experience skiing over the holidays - I too resorted to the "from CT" reply to which some would say - Oh I hope you don't live near that town to which I would bow my head and say we live in Newtown. While its hard sometimes to say it - the response is nothing but love and support - so I wonder why then am I so afraid to just say Newtown with pride. Perhaps someday we will say it with pride. I just cannot stop praying for the families who lost loved ones and hope none of us ever do stop praying - there's is a loss that will never heal. God Bless them all.
D.j. Ledina January 03, 2013 at 02:29 PM
Suzy - I completely identify with this. I am an instructor and our name tags indicate our hometown. So most people don't even need to ask me before they return looks of sadness, sympathy, and apprehension. Thank you for this article.
Diana Baxter January 03, 2013 at 02:45 PM
Hi Suzy, - Yes I get the same reaction even on the phone with a stranger. Last week I walked into my Dr's office in Fairfield. As soon as the receptionist pulled the chart their faces dropped. "Oh, you live in Sandy Hook? How are you coping?" and so on as did the other patients look at me as if they wanted to ask. I decided to proudly say without a tear, "Yes, I live in Sandy Hook, and we are coping, the outpouring is overwhelming, now we need to grieve so we can move forward." I did shed many tears on the way home. Thanks Suzy for this and hope to see you soon!
Victoria January 03, 2013 at 05:54 PM
Suzy.... I'm in the same boat as you & all of you!! I know I shouldn't be ashamed but I do get a little upset & down. Mixed feelings.... Not what I want our beautiful town to be well know for..
Joanna January 03, 2013 at 09:43 PM
Suzy, Same here I live in Newtown CT and I work with clients on the phone 4-6 times a day a common question always is: to break the silence where are you from! I cant get into my work calls without having the same questions proposed to me, I use the CT as well.
George S January 04, 2013 at 04:04 AM
Thanks for writing this. I've had the same experience even within CT, so it's helpful to read about others have similar experiences. Obviously it's hardly the biggest problem anyone is facing; but still, it's a weird experience.
Charlene January 04, 2013 at 01:43 PM
Here too, in Boston, MA. Having lived in Newtown for 30 years and relocating last year we get the same outpouring of love and compassion once it is known that we are from 'CT.' I have shared with some that Newtown is home. Though I can not to begin to compare myself with all of you or the families, amidst such tragedy I hope it comforts those most affected to know that truly, the world is grieving with you.
jennifer zulli January 05, 2013 at 03:32 AM
Beautifully written Suzy!!!
Patrick Oser January 05, 2013 at 06:25 AM
Yes they are ~ I am from Boston too
Andrea Schear,LCSW January 07, 2013 at 05:02 AM
I am a Child/Family therapist and I practiced in Newtown for 6 years several years ago. I had the privilege of volunteering my time in Sandy Hook a few days after the tragedy occurred. It was one of the most Amazing experiences I have ever had! The families were so united so desperately wanting to make sure that they were doing the right things to enable their partners and children to heal so much compassion, sensitivity and courage I witnessed! As I asked the children who were in the school and had survived the shooting to draw their feelings and worries their responses were priceless and revealing ~ their intense empathy and bold frankness despite their fears. The experience is one that I will always Treasure ! The caliber of adults and children I saw were stellar ! Even though I now have a practice an hour away, I eagerly look forward to volunteering in Sandy Hook as the days pass by and the realities sink in. A privilege Andrea
Kathy January 08, 2013 at 03:23 PM
Suzy, I know what you mean. I'm a crafter and I'm dreading the spring fairs because my business cards say Sandy Hook. Everyone used to say, "where's Sandy Hook? I never heard of it." Our days of innocence and anonymity are over.
Nance Hewitt January 21, 2013 at 07:56 PM
D You have been up to my house on lake in Sandy Hook. I heard from a friend I hadn't heard from in over 40 years. I am very over over whelmed .
Nance Hewitt January 21, 2013 at 08:02 PM
Aunt Laura ,do you know who all these people are.?
Nance Hewitt January 21, 2013 at 08:12 PM
Aunt Laura, do you remember Gravel Gurty"s. Larenzo's two hour pizza. Golf on my dads lawn golf course. Margaret Ann. Bobby's dock. the rope swing. The change. 61 years of change Shady Rest. Sandy Hook.

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