Sandy Hook: After the Shooting, a Stricken Town Struggles On

The last of the burials are over, but memorials to the 20 children and 7 adults killed in the Dec. 14 rampage are still growing as Newtown, Conn. ponders how to move past a senseless tragedy

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Craig Ruttle / AP

Members of the Rutter family of Sandy Hook, Conn., embrace early Christmas morning as they stand near memorials by the Sandy Hook firehouse in Newtown, Conn.

On Friday morning, Deanne Komlo was tiptoeing through the memorial on Church Hill Road, repositioning teddy bears — wet, matted and facedown from the morning’s showers — one by one against the base of each of the 27 angel cutouts on the grass hill. Some of the stuffed bears tumbled down as soon as she walked away, but she returned and gently placed them on their backs with their arms outstretched, as if they were waiting to be hugged.

Another woman was going around picking up each candleholder and emptying the rainwater that had collected inside. It would rain again before sundown. When the two women reached the bottom of the hill, they hugged through tears for several seconds. They had never met before, although Komlo has spent several hours at this memorial since it first appeared in the weekend after the shootings. They discussed what more they could do to help: a bake sale? Snowflake crafts? Prayer? While they talked, a third woman went around straightening any angels that had started to lean, trying to resecure them in the softened, muddy ground.

(MORE: The Remaking of Newtown: Will Tragedy Make It Stronger?)

In Newtown, Conn., memorials to the victims of one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history have sprouted up wherever there is open grass or sidewalk space. The piles of offerings along the streets leading to Sandy Hook Elementary School have grown 3 ft. tall and several feet wide, spilling over and blocking sidewalks. Everyone knows that the piles — filled with sealed letters, new toys, candles and flowers — cannot stay there permanently. But even while Komlo accepts that the memorial she tends will eventually have to come down, she continues to maintain it. Like many in the town, she doesn’t know what else she can do.

It’s been more than a week since 27 people — including 20 children, six school employees and the mother of the shooter — were killed in Sandy Hook, and the community is slowly trying to find a path toward closure. On Friday, a moment of silence, led by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, was held at the town hall to mark the one-week anniversary of the tragedy. That evening, a vigil at the Fairfield Hills Campus drew more than 1,000 people.

On Saturday, Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra announced that the meticulously maintained memorials would be “gathered and processed into soil that will serve in the foundation of a future permanent memorial.” On Sunday afternoon, the flag at the intersection of Church Hill Road and Main Street was raised to full mast — a position it had not occupied since the shootings on Dec. 14.

(MORE: The NRA Responds to Newtown: America Needs More ‘Good Guys’ with Guns)

It had been a long week for the town residents, and particularly for the families of victims. More than a dozen motorcades have passed down Church Hill Road since the shootings. While many families had asked that their funerals be private, mourners showed up anyway, waiting in the cold and rain, even if they did not know the victim personally.

Everyone in Newtown knows someone at Sandy Hook Elementary. Their mom worked there. Their friend ran an after-school daycare for some of the students. Their former teachers taught there. No one in the town is untouched. “When someone asks you, ‘Did you know someone involved?’ … It’s Newtown — everybody knows everyone,” resident Jeffrey Keating, 20, says.

In the time since the shootings, Sandy Hook has been inundated with offers of aid. Within hours of the shooting, police officers from across the state raced to the scene, unbidden, to help in any way they could. Just a day after the tragedy, counselors and teachers from nearby states arrived to see if anyone needed advising. Trainers traveled with therapy-certified “comfort dogs” from six states away. Someone from Hawaii sent 26 lei necklaces on ice. High school students baked cookies and delivered them to police officers stationed at the town’s flagpole. Newtown residents raided craft stores in search of green and white ribbon — Sandy Hook School’s colors. One man ran 26 miles Friday morning — a mile for each of the victims from the school. People from across the U.S. donated money to local restaurants, requiring that they give Newtown residents free cups of coffee.

(MORE: Sandy Hook Victim Dylan Hockley: A ‘Beautiful Butterfly’ Whose Life Was Cut Short)

Doll donations have flooded local churches. “Tons of teddy bears,” Keating, who volunteered to help sort the stuffed toys, said. “Literally, we have rooms in the basement of the church that are stacked 8 ft. tall by 20 ft. deep. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”

The last of Sandy’s Hook’s victims was laid to rest on Sunday. Unlike the memorials, which people crowd around daily, the graves of the children do not gather hordes of visitors or gifts. Indeed many of the children and teachers who shared a classroom just 10 days ago have now been buried far apart. Teacher Victoria Soto, reportedly killed while trying to defend her students, was buried in Stratford, Conn., 20 miles to the south. Six-year-old Dylan Hockley’s services took place in Bethel, Conn., while his teaching aide Anne Marie Murphy — who died with her arms wrapped around him, trying to shield him from the bullets — was buried in her hometown of Katonah, N.Y.

On Saturday afternoon, firemen hung a banner outside of St. Rose of Lima Church, where Monsignor Robert Weiss conducted services for several victims this week. The banner quoted the Gospel of John 1:5: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

(MORE: Twenty Brighter Stars: Shocked Connecticut Town Mourns Its Slain Children)

No decision has been made about the future of the Sandy Hook Elementary School building. Some residents call it a “sacred” spot, while others just want it torn down. (Students from the school will resume classes in January in the neighboring town of Monroe, in a building reportedly being set up as a close replica of Sandy Hook Elementary — where students can find their pens, crayons, notebooks in the exact location they left them on the day of the shooting.) And as the traffic gets lighter and the camera crews and out-of-state cars leave Church Hill Road, Newtown residents hope to return to some kind of normal — although a return to how things were before the tragedy seems far out of reach. “I don’t think we’ll ever get back to normal so long as all of us who live in town remember,” says Matt Cole, 24, one of the organizers of Friday’s vigil. “Maybe three or four generations down the road, the town will get back to normal.”

Just after noon on Sunday, as a final police motorcade passed through town, patrons of the Sandy Hook Diner on Church Hill Road turned away from the counter and looked out the window. Pedestrians stood still and waited, not moving until the vehicles passed. Later, after the last recorded church bells had rung and the rumbling of police motorcycles had faded away, high school musicians set up on the street outside of a downtown coffee shop and began to play Christmas carols. Across Church Hill Road, a man dressed as Santa Claus stood near the comfort dogs — both, presumably, providing the same service. Mourners still arrived with toys and flowers Sunday night to add to the memorial piles, before they are taken away.

MORE: Sandy Hook Shooting: The Speculation About Adam Lanza Must Stop


"Twenty Angels" is an original song and video.  I hope that Twenty Angels can contribute to some healing and to meaningful change.  The video is posted on YouTube and Facebook.

Please share the video anywhere you think it might do some good by Forwarding,
Re-posting, “Liking”, etc.

I wrote Twenty Angels with aloha (love) for the kids, teachers, families and
community of Newtown, Connecticut.  I had
pretty much finished the song but realized the chorus needed something more.
Then I saw Anderson Cooper's interview with the parents of Grace McDonnell -- I
was blown away by the love and peace in the parents' hearts as well as in their
daughter's.  And I was transfixed by the
little girl's wonderful artwork, especially her painting of a fish.  That night I dreamt of Grace’s artwork and saw
that fish -- and the line "Fingerpaint in the sky" came to me.  I got right up at 4:00am and wrote it down, along
with the remainder of the chorus.


I've not followed this in detail.....horrible tragedies are not my thing.   But I am very curious.  DID the shooter have a history of psychiatric drug use, and if so, what specifically, and what are the known side affects?


The numbers seem to change from 27 to 26 .   I believe the correct no. includes Alan Lanza.  He, by his actions, was not making a communication about guns or overpopulation or greed.  He seemed to have had a heart broken by elitism.  WE have the right to associate with whomever we want.  It is written as a part of the first amendment.  It is cruel by the nature of man to shut some out because of imperfection.  I hugged a downs syndrom kid at church this Sunday.  Something I would have probably not otherwise done except that Alan Lanza made me think about it.  Alan wanted to be included in this school.  His mother owed him and the community at large, a greater duty to understand him than to put a dangerous thing within his grasp.


I don't think that Newtown folks will ever be the same, cause this will be talked about for many years to do, but I do know that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and the people who have shown their love and support, some of the total strangers, are to be commended for their effect to help out those victims who will be forever scarred by this tragedy that they are facing right now. It takes courage and humility on their part to do what they think is right for the people of Newtown at this time...



King Obama and IRONY or is it hypocrites

"Some interesting news has broken in the wake of the latest push for gun control by President Obama and Senate Democrats: Obama sends his kids to a school where armed guards are used as a matter of fact.
The school, Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, has 11 security officers and is seeking to hire a new police officer as we speak.
If you dismiss this by saying, "Of course they have armed guards -- they get Secret Service protection," then you've missed the larger point.
The larger point is that this is standard operating procedure for the school, period. And this is the reason people like NBC's David Gregory send their kids to Sidwell, they know their kids will be protected from the carnage that befell kids at a school where armed guards weren't used (and weren't even allowed).
Shame on President Obama for seeking more gun control and for trying to prevent the parents of other school children from doing what he has clearly done for his own. His children sit under the protection guns afford, while the children of regular Americans are sacrificed."


I remember losing a brother mny years ago and no one in  my family was smiling and joking the next day.  Other families that have known were also severely emotional for week months and even years later......except these which were filmed by news teams...these are actual reported peole at Sandy Hook that lost family the day before.....


Sorry to dissapoint the selfish weapons of mass destruction owners, but Piers Morgan is absolutely right. Anyone who protests what is says about weapons of mass destruction in the hands of crazies is automatically complicit in this horrendous crime against children.

These children are innocent of guilt and will get together in the spirit world and be reborn into new bodies. They have the principal and Desoto to guide them. Lanza however will not be reborn into anything but a hell of justice in the afterlife which will burn and burn him for his crime.


More then 60,000 right now and growing want Piers Morgan removed from CNN and deported for subversion against the USA Govt. Please go sign up if nothing else as a joke and let's see what happens to him. Surely we can sacrifice one Brit for good humor if it works? The Brits would not allow an American to talk badly about the Queen of England nor the laws of Britian if in their Country. The freedom of speech first amendment only applies USA citizen. And since he, Morgan has no regard for 2 amendment should not try to use 1st amendment to defend - again he in not USA citizen. In a tweet Piers Morgan admitted he cares not about Sandy HOOK and relished in fact it gave him a bigger voice. Go sign up and let's see what happens just for fun.


"On December 17, 2012, Senator Feinstein announced the key provisions of the bill she intends to introduce. The proposed legislation will ban the sale, transfer, importation and manufacturing of over 100 specific firearms. Also banned will be certain named semiautomatic rifles, handguns and shotguns that can use a detachable magazine, as well as fixed magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds.

The sale, transfer, importation and manufacturing of other ammunition feeding devices that can accept more than 10 rounds will also be banned."

You better read it and read it well for more then 100 different guns Many Many Many More then just is hand guns, shot guns, and rifles, so on.... Wake Up


Senator Feinstein needs to resign to long have long term Senators collected wages from the tax payers.  It is time to set term limits for Politicians such as Feinstein and we need to CUT THEIR PAY SEVERELY.  They should have to endure the effects of a bad economy just like the citizens of this country.   If Senator Feinstein doesn;t like that then in my opinion she can jump a plane and head home to Israel.   Speaking of Israel we can cut the 3.1 billion dollars for their MILITARY from our fiscal cliff as the first  reductions then clip the 1.3 billion granted to egypt for their military.

That would be a start to improving the security of the schools in the USA.

whatnot 1 Like

@dontn123  Give me a break. Even your anti-semitism is crass and pathetic. Feinstein represents the people of her state, that's how she continues to be reelected. The majority of Californians, and, for that matter, Americans support similar such gun controls. There's nothing in American jurisprudence that says guns can't be regulated. And, again, why should her pay be docked? I think our elected officials make a perfectly reasonable amount compared to CEOs, hedge fund managers, and the ilk. And, while American foreign policy is reasonable to discuss, especially our high sums of foreign aid, what does that have to do with limiting assault weapons that were designed explicitly for one purpose?


Beyond the obvious tragedy of this event, I am saddened by the tragedy of how the Western Left has been unable to put forth a unified narrative regarding why mass shootings have became more common after the 70s, and why at the same time mental health issues became much more common in the West (especially in the US).

What is the root cause of this tragedy and why isn't the Left talking about it?

The reaction to the Connecticut killings demonstrates the need for the Western Left to reevaluate itself, and to remember that it was once a potent force, in order to become one again.

I go into this thought deeper here:


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