There are still tangible reminders of the massacre out there. At the door of the Blue Colony picnic area, next to the candy dispensers for 25 cents, a worn decal clings to the glass: a teddy bear with wings carries a smaller bear in the middle of a message stating that the ” 26 angels “of the people are” always here, never forgotten “.
Not all the signs of the massacre that broke out five years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School are so visible, but there are: in the characteristics of the new school building, such as bulletproof windows and reinforced walls, whose goal is Relieve the fears of parents still tormented by the memory of a 20-year-old man who broke into the old building and killed 20 first-graders and six adults with a hail of bullets.
There is also the awkward silence that hangs over all the day-to-day conversations: at football games and in pediatricians ‘offices, where doctors wonder if their patients’ symptoms originate in the trauma. The people struggle to find a way to talk about what happened. The community quickly developed a short form of referring to it: “the tragedy” or “December 14,” the anniversary date, again here. Some say they know it is coming-this “extreme mourning season,” as one teacher described it-as soon as the sun begins to fall earlier in the fall.
“We are simply very anxious,” she added, declining to be identified for fear of offending the families of the victims. “We do not know what to do”.
In the five years since the shootout that transformed a fairly anonymous Connecticut town into a much-cited site in the caustic national debate over gun violence, gunmen have killed people in a nightclub, at an outdoor music festival , in a social service center, in theaters, in a church in South Carolina and in a church in Texas.
Pain samples follow a familiar routine: candlelight vigils and impromptu tributes, national offerings of thoughts and prayers, pleas for stricter arms laws immediately followed by calls not to politicize a tragedy.
However, seeing Newtown in 2017 is seeing how the pain remains and evolves, and how a community is able, albeit intermittently, to negotiate a way forward. It is an uncomfortable process, which implies a fragile balance between not wanting to live in the loss and not wanting to separate from a promise never to forget.
“It’s a difficult balance,” said Abbey Clements, who was a second-grade teacher at Sandy Hook. She was sitting in the cold and darkness outside a Starbucks on the edge of town, where she asked to meet reporters so as not to disturb people who might hear. “We try very hard to be resilient and strong,” he said. “And I think it’s good to recognize that it still hurts us, and that we should never forget. We do not want to forget. ”
The shooting made a hole in the sense of security that covered Newtown, a quiet and bucolic community of New England, and overwhelmed a country that could not understand an act as depraved as the mowing of children of six and seven years. That day, an emotional President Barack Obama rubbed his eyes while addressing the nation.
Now the waves of impact have become something more subtle. Even so, they still wave through the village, creating concentric circles of anguish, leaving people with varying degrees of sorrow and different types of battles. The relatives of the victims are in the center. Around them are the teachers and students who witnessed the massacre and chaos that day; then the policemen, the personnel that attend emergencies and the doctors who responded to the event; after, the whole community.
“It is almost impossible to ask the question of how the town is doing. It depends entirely on who you ask, “said David Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son, Benjamin, was murdered. “One of the things that such an event does is that it does not change you, but intensifies what you already are. There are beautiful, meaningful, considerate and very kind gestures everywhere, from people you know and from people you do not know at all. ”
A father finds relief in activism
The 26 families had an equal number of ways to react. Some moved away, looking for space and loneliness. Others created charitable foundations and raised funds. And there were some, like the Wheelers, who launched into activism.
This month, Wheeler traveled by plane and in a truck from the church to Grinnell, Iowa, a small college town about an hour’s drive east of Des Moines. It was to show a documentary about the shooting and a demonstration