I grew up in Newtown, CT and have spent the past few days trying to process what happened last Friday.
The shock is wearing off and leaving a dull ache for a town that I didn’t realize was still so much a part of me. It has been surreal seeing familiar news reporters standing in front of images of my childhood. I rode my bike to Sandy Hook center, played at the firehouse, and on the school playground.
I was a camp counselor at Treadwell Park, where the police are holding their press conferences. President Obama gave his speech Sunday from the high school stage where I had so many dance recitals and band concerts. I grew up in this place and it formed me, and I am a better person for it.
Newtown is a beautiful, amazing town that shares a lot of qualities with Reston. Like Reston, Newtown is fiercely protective of its history and its community.
Newtowners treasure unique and quirky aspects of the town such as the historic Rams Pasture (who knew a pasture could be historic?) and the rooster weather vane, which sits atop the Congregational Church and has several bullet holes in it from when General Rochambeau’s troops used it for target practice.
There is a flagpole in the center of the main intersection in town, which, despite causing numerous accidents over the years, will never, EVER, be removed. Yes, we even had “Save the Flagpole” bumper stickers at one point.
And now, this town, whose biggest concerns were things such as saving a flagpole, is coming to grips with the greatest horror, terror, heroism, faith, grief, loss, courage, and outpouring of love we have ever known. It is surreal, humbling, and heartbreaking.
Just last Wednesday, I was trying to describe to a friend where I was from. When I received the typical blank look, I went through the usual “oh, it’s a small town in southwestern Connecticut, near Danbury.” I now have to prepare myself for the new looks I will get for the rest of my life when I mention where I grew up. I would give anything to get that blank look again.
Mr. Ashmore, my high school earth science teacher, who is clearly still teaching us to this day, told us “if we allow one demented individual to redefine Newtown and all that it was and still is, we must share in the blame.” So I am writing this all down to make sure, now that Newtown is known worldwide, that you all know my town for the right reasons.
Please, when you think of Newtown, think of it as a wonderful place to grow up, and where my friends and the rest of the residents living there will draw upon the strength of their community to make sure it remains a wonderful place for their children to grow up.