By Mary Grace Carpenter
The tragic events that took place Friday, December 14, at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conn., hit very close to home for me. In fact, too close. Newtown is my home.
I moved to San Clemente just over a year ago, but Newtown is where I spent my childhood. I have happy memories of attending $2 movies at the Town Hall with my sisters, going to the Labor Day Parade on Main Street and playing my first soccer games on the fields at Sandy Hook. I went to Newtown High School and held my first job working as a lifeguard at the town pool where I had learned to swim 10 years prior. When I left Newtown for the first time to attend the University of Connecticut, most of my college friends had never heard of my small town that was only an hour away. When I graduated college and was deciding where to get married, there was no more perfect place than the Newtown’s Meeting House on our town’s Main Street. It was then that many of my husband’s relatives visited for the first time, and went home to show their friends pictures of our quaint New England town. To say that Newtown is something from a Norman Rockwell painting is not an exaggeration.
My parents still live in Newtown, as do my grandparents. My father sent me a picture of the 26 grave blankets he had made at work at his landscaping company for the funerals being held this week. Each one had either a pink or blue ribbon and he told me that he had said a prayer over each one. A close friend is a reporter for the town newspaper, the Newtown Bee, which once ran a front page article about a shopping cart that been left in a snow bank for too long at the town grocery store. She asked me to pray for her as she wrote the obituaries for the 26 victims for this week’s paper. Many of my friends live in Newtown, some of them even work at Sandy Hook school, and one of them even was among the first responders at the scene that Friday morning.
I was in the post office recently, mailing home my Christmas presents, and the man in line behind me asked me where I was sending my package. When I told him Newtown, he was shocked. When I said, “Things like that don’t happen in Newtown.” he responded, “Things like that don’t happen anywhere.” He’s right.
I never would have imagined that the president of the United States would be addressing the nation from the same stage where I used to play my French horn for high school band concerts. No one was prepared to deal with the sorrow that has settled upon Newtown and the rest of the world. Yet, I have never been more proud of my hometown. Newtown is home to 27,000 generous, kind and smart people. Many of the people in that town helped to shape who I am, including teachers and coaches who instilled in me many of the values that I still hold. My town has always been full of people who really care about their neighbors, which is why I am not surprised at how they reacted to the tragic events. I knew that Newtown was capable of being an example to the rest of the world of how love can be much louder than violence.
Even after graduating and some moving away, those who have gone through the Newtown school systems have a strong connection with their school and town. Many of my classmates from all over the country have started fundraisers to help the families of the victims, and to support Sandy Hook School. There have been numerous running races, “I Love Newtown” shirts made to sell and websites put in place to take donations from all over the world. My high school class decided to donate all the money that we had set aside for reunions. I’m sure this is just the beginning of what the people of Newtown will come up with to help both the victim’s families, and to make an impact on the rest of the world who is watching our small, but unbelievably strong town.
If you would like to help Newtown, there are a few fundraisers in place.