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Commission Discusses Signage For ‘Memorial Etiquette’ At Property

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“We have not met in a long time. It is great to see everyone.”

That was the official greeting from Chairman Daniel Krauss July 14 as the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission (SHPMC) held its first meeting of the year at Newtown Municipal Center. The last time the board members officially gathered was in May 2021.

No members of the public were present.

The group started by approving its May 2021 meeting minutes before the panel engaged over outlining memorial rules, guidelines, and expectations to be referred to the Newtown Board of Selectmen (BOS).

Krauss explained that they would be specifically going over what the desired signage should be at the memorial property. The first suggestion was that dogs should be prohibited from entering the memorial.

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal noted, “I’d like to think everyone has the good sense to not bring their dogs and let them off their leash, but I don’t want to leave it up to chance. I would expect most people would be respectful when they are there.”

With some clarifying, they added that service dogs would be allowed.

Rosenthal also recommended putting that if people leave items on site, such as flowers or teddy bears, they will be removed.

Additionally, the group brought up that the signs should indicate there is to be no smoking, vaping, alcohol, or skateboarding on the premises.

Emphasis was made that the permanent memorial is in fact a memorial and not a park.

SHPMC member JoAnn Bacon, who is the mother of the late first grader Charlotte Bacon, said, “I think if we start off that this is a place of reverence and set the tone immediately, that stuff will be obvious … I think if we work that into what the expectations are, people aren’t going to come and skateboard.”

Rosenthal agreed with Bacon.

Other SHPMC members brought up that they do not necessarily want a long list of prohibited actions and that if they do some people may choose to not read them.

Rosenthal read what is already planned on one of the signs: “Welcome to the memorial honoring the lives of the victims of the December 14, 2012, shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. This is a special place of quiet and reverence. A place for the families of the victims and for the community to reflect and remember. Encased within the stone is the sacred soil created from the many items left in spontaneous memorials throughout the town on the days following the tragedy.”

SHPMC member Pat Llodra voiced that for the other signs they should focus on the big ideas with the wordage and less specificity.

Rosenthal pointed out they can always create new signs in the future if they find they missed something and want to be more specific.

After conversations about a variety of scenarios they should include, including having no swimming in the water or throwing coins and not leaving children unsupervised, the commission decided to look to the Newtown Parks & Recreation guidelines already in place.

The group did like the idea of including the phrase, “All items left behind will be removed and discarded. Please only leave your thoughts.”

SHPMC member Donna Van Waalwijk questioned, “Have we thought about where we would put the sign?”

Rosenthal answered it would be a metal sign placed somewhere when people are leaving the parking lot and about to enter the memorial area.

In the conversation, Rosenthal mentioned that the driveway gate to the memorial site on Riverside Road has been installed and that the lights are on at night now with security cameras.

The sign can include a reminder that the memorial will only be open to the public from dawn to dusk and is locked up the rest of the time.

Some SHPMC members wondered if they should include a phone number for someone to call if a problem needs to be reported. They settled on leaving it to individuals to look up the appropriate town number if they need to contact someone.

Towards the end of the discussion, the commission members decided they liked the sign title to be “Memorial Etiquette” instead of memorial rules or guidelines.

Having made a variety of notes, Krauss said they would be written up and circulated.

Rosenthal told the commission that no formal vote would need to be taken, since it is being done in an advisory capacity.

Updates, Feedback

Rosenthal reported to the SHPMC that after visiting the memorial site, the plantings were thriving.

“Despite the lack of rain … the meadow grass is coming in slowly, as expected, but it is germinating some. The plants are growing terrifically. There is nothing brown. They have definitely grown in size,” he said.

Van Waalwijk inquired if any of the families directly impacted by losing a loved one have seen the memorial yet.

SHPMC member Tricia Pinto, mother of the late first grader Jack Pinto, responded, “Yes, a few have come. The offer has been made to all the families who want to see it before it opens. A few have already taken me up on that. I imagine once the summer ends and fall begins there will be more people.”

Krauss asked if she felt comfortable with sharing what their reactions have been.

Pinto answered that the responses from families have been “all very positive.”

Rosenthal reminded the group that the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial dedication ceremony is currently planned for the morning of Saturday, November 12.

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Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at alissa@thebee.com.

Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission met for the first time in more than a year on Thursday, July 14. Members discussed what they should put on signage at the memorial, including that no swimming would be allowed in the water and that no coins should be dropped in the water feature.
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