On the way home from a Christmas shopping trip to New York City on Thursday, I had the opportunity to visit Newtown, Connecticut with my two college friends.
We debated whether stopping in Newtown just six days after the horrible tragedy that struck Sandy Hook elementary school was appropriate, but in retrospect I’m glad we did.
I had spent the past week watching the continuous news coverage, talking about the tragic event with friends and family and hearing countless heart-wrenching stories in the media.
Thursday afternoon, the white sign presenting the words, “Sandy Hook School, Visitors Welcome”, and the Sandy Hook fire department, where survivors assembled seeking safety last Friday, transformed from icons that had become so
familiar to me in news reports, to stark realities.
I had found it nearly impossible to comprehend how something so terrible could happen to such innocent people, or what motives or condition could cause someone to execute such horrifying actions.
The thought of how those who were directly affected by last Friday’s tragedy
must feel was unfathomable. Especially when taking into consideration the utterly sickening feeling I experienced just by hearing about it.
What I experienced on Thursday, however, was a more comforting feeling. I witnessed an overwhelming outpouring of support that was evident throughout the entire town. Flowers and stuffed animals of all varieties coated the sidewalks as the distinct smell of burning candles filled the air.
Although scores of people strolled about the center of town and the streets surrounding Sandy Hook elementary, an eerie silence inhabited the entire area. The hazy gray sky reflected the mournful atmosphere.
But as many people shared hugs and shed tears, it was clear that no one in Newtown was alone. Tokens of condolence from towns all across the country, even from countries all across the world, comprised memorials extending for nearly a mile.
In front of one main street storefront, six large teddy bears accompanied by 20 smaller-sized ones were aligned to symbolize the six faculty members and 20 students whose lives were taken. A string of paper-crafted angels hung from two large pine trees in the center of town. Posters lay atop piles of commemorative items, relaying messages of inspiration and support.
Further down the road, leading up to the driveway of Sandy Hook Elementary were 26 Christmas trees, one for each victim. Each was decorated with an eclectic array of ornaments, victims’ names, drawings, prayers, stuffed toys and balloons. Each was topped with an angel.
What I experienced Thursday was a feeling much warmer than the sharp December chill that filled the air that day. I came to a realization, as cliché as it may sound, that although something utterly sickening had happened, there is still so much good left in this world.
In the brief period I visited Newtown, I saw more than a hundred strangers come together to mourn with an entire town of people they had never even met. They posted signs boasting the words, “Faith”, “Love” and “Hope”.
Tragedies such as this one are unlike others in the sense that there is little people can do to actually fix what happened. What they can do, however, is offer support. My short visit undoubtedly confirmed that is exactly what is being done.
On Wednesday night, contestants on the competitive singing show, “The X Factor”, paid tribute to Sandy Hook Elementary School by performing Michael Jackson’s hit ballad, “You Are Not Alone”.
The unbelievable support I witnessed in Newtown on Thursday only further supported the exact message that Jackson’s song conveys.