My Visit to Newtown

Newtown Sandy Hook Recap Header Photo

It happened here.

That’s what I thought when I took Exit 8. It happened here. Three weeks ago. Exactly.

Welcome to Sandy Ho

When I was in grad school, I visited the Hermitage Plantation. The visit was surreal. The whole time, you walk around thinking: It happened here. People died right here. People were lynched right here. Don’t get me wrong, I am not drawing a comparison between Sandy Hook and slavery. What I’m saying is this: when you stand on the ground where murder happened, you feel ill. It’s different than reading about it, seeing it on the news or imagining it. Very different.

I spent Friday in Newtown and Sandy Hook. I did some driving around to see the town and later in the day I hit the pavement to hand out about 50 of our art kits to individuals and agencies in the area.

Sandy Hook is the epitome of a “town.” It’s much smaller than a city but it’s definitely not a village. It’s a town. When you take the exit into Sandy Hook, you can go left or right. Right will take you to Sandy Hook. Left will take you to Newtown. I went right. You reach a traffic light, flanked by a grouping of buildings that house shops and restaurants. From there the roads turn into winding, snowy residential areas. Immediately I got the sense that everyone in Sandy Hook knows each other in one way or another. Everyone there was touched directly by what happened. Strangely, as I drove up toward the school, I passed by the retired psychologist who was in the news for taking in six children from the school who had run away after the shooting. He sort of waved at me as he was checking his mail. I immediately recognized him and gasped. It was just odd to cross paths with him, I guess. Again I thought: It happened here. Right here. It happened to him.

Signs of Support in Sandy Hook

Throughout the small town of Sandy Hook, I saw signs everywhere. Signs of support and tokens that were gently propped onto the ice. The fronts of homes were transformed in to memorials. 26 tiny crosses. 26 flags. Painted signs. It happened to each of these people.

Signs of Support Sandy Hook 1

Crosses of Support for Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook Signs of Support 2

I didn’t want to disturb the residents of Sandy Hook or become a nagging media presence, so I took photos from my car, making sure that I wasn’t holding up traffic. I said a prayer at each stop for the families and children of the town and moved on.

IMG_5433

The road to Sandy Hook Elementary School is blocked with 24 hour police presence. You can’t go to the school anymore and the kids won’t be returning there. Just on the corner though is the fire station where all the children were taken. It’s a small, old station and any other day I would not have noticed it at all, but today I again thought: It happened here. The kids came here. 20 parents waited here…and left without their children.

On my way out of Sandy Hook I stopped at the Starbucks to catch up on emails. The kids were getting out of school and school buses were everywhere. It seemed that life had returned to some semblance of normal. I can’t be the judge of normal though. I imagine the healing will go on for years and will happen in unexpected ways.

As I pulled out of Starbuck, ready to get back on the highway, I noticed St. Rose Church & School. I still had about 20 totes in the car and thought I’d stop by the Parish Education Center to see if our kits could be of use. It’s nerve wracking to knock on a stranger’s door – especially in a town that’s been shaken by violence. The people were incredibly welcoming though, and told me that they have support groups for parent’s and families there. They were happy to accept our donation, and I’ll be delivering more on Sunday. As I walked out, the director said  “I can guarantee that these will go to kids who can use them.”

Well, that’s the goal isn’t it?

Kids were murdered here. Teachers were killed here. Unspeakable violence came to Sandy Hook. It happened here.

But, life is continuing. Healing is happening. It’s happening here. It’s nice that we can be a small part of that.

 

28 comments

  1. That brought tears to my eyes Amber… what an amazing thing you are doing, and what a life changing experience. You are doing so.much.good with your project, and I am so SO proud of you!!

  2. Nancy on said:

    Reading this, I felt like I was right there with you. Thank you so much for making this trip…and representing those of us who can’t be there. God Bless us, everyone!!!

  3. Oh Amber, I’m overwhelmed just reading this. I can’t imagine how it would feel to be in your shoes. What a wonderful, amazing thing you are doing. Big hugs to you!

  4. Jenn on said:

    Oh Amber, this is amazing. I can’t imagine what it was like to go there, especially after only such a small amount of time has passed. It was an amazingly kind thing that you did though, and its absolutely wonderful. I can’t quite think of the right words though. Bug hugs and a high five to you. XD
    <3 Jenn

    • Jenn on said:

      P.s.

      I am sharing this on my blog’s fb page for your thoughtful actions

  5. Sue B on said:

    Tears shed as I read this. God bless you, Amber, for taking this project on and doing it with such conviction and heart.

  6. Tricia on said:

    That brought me to tears as soon as I started reading. Not only so you continue to amaze me, your huge heart and inspirating perspectives are endlessly touching. Way to go and thanks for sharing your experience.

  7. June K on said:

    Thank you so much for being you, Amber.

  8. teepee on said:

    Thank you for being the best rep we could ask for…the pictures say volumes! I feel that the stamping/blogging community was well represented by your being on scene. Thank you for sharing with us. God bless you.

  9. Diana Finlay on said:

    Thank you for sharing your experience on this trip. It seems haunting to look at the pictures. I hope this will help to give you some closure.
    I did mail my items to you on Wed as promised. Instead of one box I used two. The two boxes should total 10 pairs of scissors, 10 marker sets and 10 watercolor sets. Thank you for doing this project and inviting us to join you. It felt good to be a part of this. And it felt good to support you.

  10. Diana on said:

    All I can say is, I’m absolutely speechless! May God continue to grant you the gift you carry to touch the lives of others and inspire the way you do. Xoxo!!’

  11. Jennifer on said:

    What a beautiful yet sad post. Thank you for doing what you doing. You are truly wonderful!

  12. conil on said:

    As I sit here with tears running down my cheeks, I keep repeating, “No parent should have to bury their child, no matter what their age”. Your courage to go to Sandy Hook is so admirable, I applaud you. Not sure I could do that without breaking down it the street and that’s the last thing this community needs right now. The fact that they’re trying to return to some type of normalcy is wonderful. The resiliency of the human spirit never fails to amaze me.

  13. Barb Ghigliotty on said:

    As I read your post (choked up), I really felt like I was there with you. But as you said, it really is different to “Be there”…I believe God’s plan for us includes making this world a better place than how we found it. And I believe by taking this trip, you have done that.

    God Bless You, Amber! The children may never know who organized this wonderful mission, but it will touch their lives in some way, and make it better!

    Thank you for inviting us on your journey, and for bringing this to fruition…you are a very, very special person, and I am proud to know you!!!

  14. GinaE on said:

    I’m in tears. thank you for bringing us along for the journey. You are doing such a good thing. God bless you and those whose lives you touch!

  15. Jenny Renee on said:

    Wow…thank you for doing this and sharing it. You’ve no doubt touched many hearts big and small.

  16. Thank you. I don’t know what else to say. Thanks for taking action, thanks for following through. I wish I could hug you. My box of paper is shipping Monday, I hope we can make enough kits for everyone.

  17. Thank you for doing this and for sharing photos of your trip. I felt like I was there with you. Bless you, Amber!

  18. nancy on said:

    Amber,this was a wonderful thing for you to do.You reall did take us there.wonderful idea.

  19. Linda on said:

    Words can only begin to express the thanks that go out to you for what was obviously a challenging journey. So wonderful. So proud of you. Such a Blessing.

  20. So touching, Amber. I am tearful reading your well written post – I can’t imagine visiting Sandy Hook. As a new mother, I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of the families and the whole town. Well done on your project – it is really amazing.

  21. Oh Amber, You are so Brave, so Wonderful and I adore You. This was a great mission, you invisioned it and you accomplished it in a short period of time. I cried all day when this news broke as I was listening to the radio. And I prayed and prayed. I’m so glad you did something for them.

  22. Susan Starr on said:

    God bless you, Amber, for bringing such a comforting mission of love to fruition! Truly you have a warm heart and kind soul that will be rewarded and I’m sure that the art kits will begin to bring the necessary healing that the community needs. You’re amazing!!

  23. janet on said:

    Amber, my heart is with the community up there, I can even think about them without getting such a lump in my throat and my heart just leadens.

    I also feel a huge sense of gratitude and pride for you, in doing what you have done. You may have not seen the effect, but I am so very sure the difference you have made will be tremendous.

    hugs.

  24. Barb King on said:

    Thank you for doing this. My nephew and his wife and 2 little boys live in Newtown, and I have seen the anguish he and his wife have gone through as they deal with this tragedy. Thankfully, his little boys are preschoolers, but he has friends who lost a son. I was just there on Thanksgiving, and when we come into town I am always amazed at how rural and peaceful it is even though it is so close to several large cities. That town is forever changed… I hope that the residents take whatever peace they can from the outpouring of support from all over the world. I’m sure the recipients of the bags you made will be grateful.

  25. It’s hard to consume. But it’s real and for some reason reading your post made it more ‘real’. Not just a media story from half way around the world.
    Real. Raw. Heartbreaking.
    Bless you Amber.
    Lou X (Aust)

  26. Amber, could you please put a post-it note or something that stays at the top of your blogs / facebook saying that you still need cards, or NOT, so I and other crafters know if we should keep making and sending cards to the PO Box. I know you are going to keep up the art kits well into this year, but I’m not seeing anywhere whether or not you still want age-appropriate handmade cards to go with the kits. Perhaps you have enough.

    Thank you so much and thank you, again, for all your doing for these kids!

    xo Darnell

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