A panel of local officials hosted multiple press conferences this week, trying earnestly to satisfy the curiosity of the assembled media about all things Newtown as the community approaches the first anniversary of the deadly 12/14 attack on Sandy Hook School. In recent weeks, these same officials have been trying to reserve the actual anniversary date as a day of private reflection and commemoration for the community. The press conferences were an attempt to preempt a repeat of the media crush that swamped the town a year ago. “We can’t choose to not have this horrible thing happen to us. It happened. We cannot make it un-happen,” First Selectman Pat Llodra told the journalists. “But we can choose how we react to it.”
Anniversaries are always an invitation to look back, and in looking back on Saturday, Newtown will see that it has chosen wisely in its reaction to tragedy. We chronicle on our front page this week dozens of groups, foundations, scholarships, and other programs designed to brighten the future — all in reaction to that dark day a year ago. As the rest of the world pauses to focus on this sad anniversary with renewed attention to the Newtown community, what it will find is a town leaning toward the future.
Imagining a future, researchers have found, involves many of the same areas of the brain used in remembering the past. Our human minds are inveterate time travelers, too often lingering only briefly in the present moment before heading off to some important task of remembering or anticipating. The entanglement of the past and future is inevitable. So, it is not surprising that we construct our future based on what we remember, which is why so many of the new and continuing initiatives created to benefit Newtown and the world since 12/14 reflect the unforgettable personalities and spirits of those who were lost that day. To our credit and our benefit, we are, quite literally, remembering our future.
So now we observe this much-heralded anniversary. For Newtown, it is not a reminder written on a calendar. (Interim Superintendent of Schools John Reed explained at the press conference on Monday, “The people in this town don’t need reminding.”) We have our memories. We have our plans for the future. Perhaps, with the world’s indulgence, we will have a little time and space on this important date to rest from our time travels and to linger longer than we otherwise might in the present moment in community with those we know and love.