Newtown shootings: A hometown is shattered, but pulling itself together
Editor's note: The author is the Westport News sports editor.
My hometown has always held a special place in my heart.
I've always taken great pride in my hometown, knowing that the comfort and warm memories it's given me for 26 years are luxuries.
But on Friday, my Newtown -- the only place I've ever lived, save for four years of college -- was rattled to its core by a senseless act of violence. As I sat in my house Friday -- only about two miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School -- I felt helpless; hoping, praying that the horrific details that were unfolding were all just a nightmare. I -- like my friends and neighbors who call this quintessential New England town home -- was in disbelief.
The seemingly idyllic community -- so peacefully symbolized by a 100-foot-high flagpole that rests right in the heart of Main Street -- suddenly had become known for unthinkable carnage.
My hometown had suddenly become a place of fear and deep sadness. I was trying to comprehend it all. It just didn't make sense to me. It didn't make sense to anyone.
How could anyone be so cruel and cold-hearted to break into a school and take away 26 lives, including 20 children? How? Why?
I never imagined that my hometown -- where I had learned my ABCs, formed my first friendships and broke in my first baseball glove -- could be the site of one of the nation's deadliest school shootings. The peace and tranquility that everyone in the town had shared was shattered.
I had always cherished the fact that my town was never a place where violence occurred. Front-page news in the local community paper was almost always of the uplifting variety, highlighting graduations, Christmas tree lightings and parades.
Newtown had always been a place that I, and many others, had learned to appreciate for its quiet, small-town feel. Usually whenever friends would ask me what there was to do for entertainment in my hometown, I'd pause for a brief second, smile and offer the same three-word response: "Honestly, not much."
Sure, there's the $2 movies at Edmond Town Hall, high school football games and the various town parks to play at, but Newtown, more or less, always was a quiet setting.
Sadly, Newtown in the past week has had a far different feel. Newtown, the same town where I've remained to avoid commotion, has become the epicenter of commotion, with dozens of television trucks and a scores of reporters, photographers and producers. Media from all over have come to report, and heartbreaking images from the town have been spread worldwide. The president of the United States spoke at my high school.
My hometown has never felt so foreign. All this never seemed possible.
At some point, some level of normalcy will be restored -- but never to what it was. Newtown, the town I've always held so close to my heart, will always have a void. There will always be a remembrance of the lives that were tragically stolen away from this town, all of them too soon.
As I followed continuing coverage of the tragedy over the weekend, I was hit with a wave of emotions -- sadness, shock, anger -- that drew a steady stream of tears. I went to grade school at Hawley Elementary -- less than two miles from Sandy Hook Elementary -- but I have a strong attachment to the latter, having played many of my youth sports there. I didn't know any of the children who died. My sister, who has worked at a nursery in town and babysits, knew three of the victims.
I keep asking myself, why? Why did such terror have to strike anywhere, let alone my hometown, my Newtown?
The emotional pain for the families who lost loved ones seems unimaginable. But I'd like to think that the outpouring of support they've received from all over -- from friends, neighbors and others throughout the world -- will continue to provide at least some measure of comfort.
Makeshift memorials to the victims have been set up in downtown Sandy Hook, as well as at the front of driveway to the school and at the adjacent firehouse. Other smaller memorials, with teddy bears, candles, balloons and flowers, have been placed in various areas throughout town.
Slowly but surely, the community that was torn apart by an unfathomable act of violence is coming together. And really, there's no other choice.
I wouldn't expect anything less of Newtown.
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