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Every teddy bear has role to play

Updated 5:55 pm, Monday, December 24, 2012
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NEWTOWN -- All the teddy bears, toys, flowers and photographs lovingly placed around town during the past week will play a role long after they are removed.

The mementos that honor 20 children and six adults killed in the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School will be gathered and incorporated into a future permanent memorial honoring the victims.

"I am calling to inform you of the next step in the long healing process," First Selectman Patricia Llodra said in a recorded phone message to residents' homes Saturday night.

She announced that the thousands of flowers, letters, signs, photos, teddy bears and other items will be gathered by the town Public Works Department to be transformed into soil or blocks.

"This will be sacred soil, holding all the sweet messages and symbols of love and hope, of kindness and sadness, visions for a better future and promises to forever remember the ones lost in this sad attack," Llodra said.

The decision was made in consultation with school Superintendent Janet Robinson and the Board of Selectmen, she said.

Half a dozen sites around town overflow with the items that were left by local residents as well as visitors moved by the tragedy.

Fred Hurley, director of public works, will oversee the project.

He said he would wait to collect the items until after the start of the new year because so many people continue to journey to the memorial sites.

"All the memorabilia will be kept. The biodegradable materials will be composted into soil that will be used at a future memorial site," Hurley said. "The non biodegradable material will be ground up and combined with a cement slurry to make cement blocks."

By making blocks, Hurley said it would solve the problem of storage and security of the materials until it is time to make the memorial.

Some of the larger sites with mementoes are across from Sandy Hook Fire Department, near the school, and by Edmond Town Hall, Hurley said, but there are three or four other locations around town as well.

Selectman William Rodgers said Llodra was given the idea of preserving the memorabilia this way.

"I think it was fantastic and so did (Selectman) Jim Gaston," Rodgers said Monday.

"It's very important to do. It's going to be such a pervasive part of Newtown for years to come," he said.

"We need permanent types of remembrances. This is transforming something that is fleeting into something that is permanent."

eileenf@newstimes.com; 203-731-3333