On some days, it seems like the great tragedy Newtown suffered on 12/14 has created its own ever-expanding universe, surging out from a big bang amplified by cameras and microphones to places unknown. That big bang echoes back to us from time to time in nearly unintelligible ways that can strain our understanding. The designation of 12/14 as “Guns Save Lives Day” by a couple of gun rights organizations, for example, showed how distance and disdain can distort the message of respect, compassion, and kindness that has flowed out of our community for the past ten months. Fortunately, withering public criticism of this attempt to exploit what will be for most people in Newtown a day of quiet reflection convinced the sponsors of Guns Save Lives Day to push their observances back a day to December 15 to coincide with Bill of Rights Day.
For the people of Newtown, 12/14 is a most private and personal date that has become public and promoted in ways that may not meet our approval. The truth of what happened in Sandy Hook has settled in the minds and hearts of people around the world, each responding according to his or her own personality or, in some cases, prejudice. But in each case, the response appears to be strong and beyond the control of any one person or town. The best we can do is stay true to the respect, compassion, and kindness that has governed our own responses from the beginning.
With that in mind, First Selectman Pat Llodra this week issued a statement endorsed by several local civic and social groups asking for “patience and understanding” from the world-at-large as Newtown moves toward the first anniversary of the tragedy. The town will not schedule any formal observances and encourages “those many persons who wish us well, and the media” to accord the town and its people the space and time they need for “personal and communal reflection” in their places of worship, their schools, among family and friends, and wherever they may find the peace and solace they need.
This community statement recommits Newtown to acts of service and kindness in honor of those who were lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It also encourages people in other places who may wish to pay their respects in December to do the same in their own communities. In short, wherever you reside in the post-12/14 universe, there is no need for a pilgrimage to Newtown — just to the nearest person in need.