Newtown Officials, Police, Schools Gird For Fallout After Latest Deadly School Shooting
Only a few days after helping to hang the lazy wafting summer flag atop Newtown's historic Main Street flagpole, Hook & Ladder firefighters were again summoned to bring that symbol of national pride to half-mast Tuesday evening.
The gesture of mourning, hastily summoned by an order from President Joseph Biden Jr came in the wake of heartbreaking news out of Texas that a lone school shooter robbed the Uvalde community of 19 children and three adults as of 11 pm on May 24. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont followed suit, reiterating the order for American and state flags.
Newtown School District Superintendent Lorrie Rodrigue was quick to react, issuing a memo to school district parents and staff that stated: "As I am sure you are already aware, the news about the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas has again had a horrific impact on their community.
"In Newtown, this news resonates with our students, staff, and families in ways many communities might not understand — and hopefully never will," Dr Rodrigue continued.
"I plan to alert our counseling teams at each of our schools, and particularly at Newtown High School, to be ready to respond to students who are upset, show signs of struggling with this event, or simply need to talk," the superintendent said. "In addition, we are working collaboratively with the Newtown Police, and in an abundance of caution there will be an enhanced police presence at all of our schools.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the students, families, and staff in the Uvalde school community," Dr Rodrigue concluded. " We will also be reaching out to the administration there to offer our support at this difficult time."
First Selectman Dan Rosenthal told The Newtown Bee he was working to ensure all municipal response services were mobilized, as comparisons of the Texas shootings began being widely compared to the Sandy Hook tragedy of December 2012.
Rosenthal said he was also in contact with Police Chief David Kullgren and ensured the community that law enforcement personnel would have heightened visibility around local schools and other community locations in the coming days.
"I've been in touch with Human Services Director Natalie Jackson, and am reaching out to the Center for Support and Wellness to ensure all our community resources and support systems are in place for those who need them," Rosenthal said, adding that he was personally shaken by this afternoon's news out of the close-knit town of Uvalde.
"No words can effectively convey my sadness for the families that lost loved ones in the senseless elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. The breaking news text alert I received this afternoon stopped me in my tracks in the way that I'm sure everyone in our community can relate.," the first selectman said, adding that the comparisons to Sandy Hook are already being made.
"I respectfully ask that the media keeps its distance as this is undoubtedly re-traumatizing for all and especially for our families of loss," Rosenthal concluded. "I plan to reach out to community leaders in Uvalde to offer our collective love, condolences and support."
The Associated Press was reporting Tuesday evening that an 18-year-old gunman opened fire hours earlier, killing at least 19 children as he went from classroom to classroom. The assailant was killed by law enforcement, likely a Border Patrol agent who was said to be in the vicinity of the school as the first distress calls came in according to several news sources.
The death toll also included two adults, authorities said. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said one of the two was a teacher.
The massacre at Robb Elementary School in the heavily Latino town, was reported to be the deadliest shooting at a US grade school since 12/14.
The gunman, who was wearing body armor and had hinted on social media of an upcoming attack, crashed his car outside the school and went inside armed, Sgt Erick Estrada of the Texas Department of Public Safety told CNN.
He killed his grandmother before heading to the school with two military-style rifles he had purchased on his birthday, Gutierrez said.
Officials did not immediately reveal a motive, but the governor identified the assailant and said he was a resident of the community about 85 miles (135 kilometers) west of San Antonio.
Official Reactions Mounting
The shootings sparked immediate response from Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, who in his order for all flags to be lowered in memory of the Texas victims, said, "Nearly ten years after Sandy Hook, Connecticut knows this feeling all too well. Our collective hearts and prayers go out to the families in Uvalde trying to process the unimaginable.
“We clearly have a gun problem in America. There are more damn guns on the street than ever before, especially illegal guns. We must test our capacity as a nation in this moment to strengthen public safety and health.," Lamont continued. "I want to be clear — gun violence is a public health crisis. It is incumbent upon lawmakers everywhere, whether it’s Connecticut, Texas, or our nation’s capital, to rise to the moment in addressing this problem.
“The 212 mass shootings that have occurred in the US so far just in these first few months of 2022 is out of hand, and we cannot forget the true cost of these numbers – lives lost. They’re our friends, fathers, kids, teachers, and neighbors. They’re worth the effort to find a diligent, pragmatic, and hopefully bipartisan solution before we lose any more of them.”
Lt Governor Susan Bysiewicz said, “I am absolutely devastated to hear of yet another school shooting, where the most innocent of victims have lost their lives. I send my most sincere condolences to the children, families, friends, and all who have been affected by this unbelievable tragedy.
"Condolences are not enough," Bysiewicz added. "I strongly urge Congress to pass commonsense gun laws to keep our children safe, now. There are no words to describe the callousness of this event, and to do nothing to address rampant gun violence is yet another avoidable tragedy.”
US Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn) took to the Senate floor asking colleagues, "What are we doing? What are we doing?”
"Just days after a shooter walked into a grocery store to gun down African American patrons, we have another Sandy Hook on our hands. What are we doing?”
Murphy called out the Senate’s inaction to stop the violence: “Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate? Why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job, of putting yourself in a position of authority if your answer is that as the slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing. What are we doing? Why are you here if not to solve a problem as existential as this?”
“Our heart is breaking for these families," Murphy continued. "Every ounce of love and thoughts and prayers we can send we are sending, but I'm here on this floor to beg to literally get down on my hands and knees and beg my colleagues: Find a path forward here. Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely.”
US Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) echoed his colleagues sentiment, saying, “My heart breaks as I re-live the shock and grief of Sandy Hook ten years ago, knowing the infinite pain that will hit these families in Texas. No words can capture my wrenching sadness for them and for our great nation that continues to be torn apart by horrendous gun violence – taking so many beautiful lives and spreading anguish and horror.”
Blumenthal added that the "senseless violence will stop only when Congress matches thoughts and prayers with action.”
'We Have To Act'
An anguished and angry President Joe Biden called for new restrictions on firearms Tuesday night.
“We have to act,” Biden told the nation, after years of failure to pass new laws.
“When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” Biden said at The White House shortly after returning from a five-day trip to Asia.
With First Lady Jill Biden standing by his side in the Roosevelt Room, the President said, “It’s time we turned this pain into action.
“To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away,” Biden said. “There’s a hollowness in your chest. You feel like you’re being sucked into it and never going to be able to get out.
"These kinds of mass shootings rarely happen anywhere else in the world,” Biden said. “Why?”
Vice President Kamala Harris said earlier that people normally declare in moments like this, “our hearts break — but our hearts keep getting broken ... and our broken hearts are nothing compared to the broken hearts of those families.”
“We have to have the courage to take action ... to ensure something like this never happens again,” she said.
Po Murray, chairwoman of Newtown Action Alliance (NAA), released a lengthy statement calling the Uvalde tragedy, "another heart wrenching school shooting incident in America."
"For the past decade, we have warned all Americans, including elected politicians across the nation, that if a mass shooting can happen in Sandy Hook then it can happen anywhere," Murray said. "We have begged Presidents, all Members of Congress, Governors and State Representatives to strengthen the federal and state gun laws to keep our families and our communities safe."
Murray called on state legislators from Texas to "repeal the permitless carry law and pass sensible laws similar to the ones passed in Connecticut after the Sandy Hook tragedy."
"We urge the President to declare gun violence a national emergency and establish the Federal Office of Gun Violence Prevention and appoint a director who could spend 100% of his/her time on addressing the gun violence crisis in our nation," the NAA leader said.
The Associated Press and reporters Zeke Miller, Chris Megerian, Eugene Garcia, and Dario Lopez-Mills contributed to this report. Check back with The Newtown Bee for more hyper-local focus as this story develops.
Editor John Voket can be reached at email@example.com.