For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This, simply stated, is Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which explains why when something exerts a force on something else, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to that of the first body. This past week, we found ourselves thinking about Newton and Newtown simultaneously as we witnessed two separate events in town: Seussical: The Musical staged at Newtown High School over the weekend, and the delivery and dedication of the Rock of Angels memorial monument, conceived by a Florida man and created by volunteers in his home state of Maine.
Both projects, like uncounted others that have arisen in Newtown over the past eight months, were born of the overwhelming emotional response by people everywhere to the horrific massacre of children and educators at Sandy Hook School on 12/14. There is no way of quantifying the damage done on that tragic day, no scale by which to measure the pain it caused the victims’ families, survivors, and the community as a whole. But in its wake we have come to witness a phenomenon we will call, for the lack of a better name, Newtown’s First Law of Compassion: for every action of senseless anger and destruction, there is a greater opposite reaction of empathy and creation.
The Rock of Angels convoy rolled into town Monday, after a weekend-long, police-escorted pilgrimage through New England, accumulating support and good wishes at several stops along the way. It was eased into position in a secluded spot behind St John’s Episcopal Church in the center of Sandy Hook. Carved from granite, plucked from the very foundation of New England, it represents a remarkable creative act, designed, underwritten, and executed spontaneously by volunteers who had no assurances that there was even a place for it in Newtown. They were compelled to do it anyway, as if by some unseen physical force.
Seussical: The Musical was the inaugural production of the nonprofit 12.14 Foundation. The audiences that filled the transformed high school auditorium on three successive days may have come not so much for entertainment, but to support the efforts of the foundation to create a center for culture, technology, and the performing arts. What they got, however, were jaw-dropping, inspired performances on a par with the best of professional musical theater anywhere. The high production standards came courtesy of Broadway professionals who committed themselves to the project, but the inspiration came from casts comprised of scores of Newtown students. The performances gave the community a glimpse of what the 12.14 Foundation has in mind for the future.
When it comes right down to it, Newtown would gladly forfeit every good thing that has come its way in response to 12/14 to live again in a 12/13 world. But reality is not a thing that can be bargained away. We are grateful to discover, however, that we are now living in a reality that has fallen under the unmistakable influence of Newtown’s First Law.