We can't stop crying. The senseless killing of innocent little children and the good people who were there to teach and care for them in a small town elementary school is difficult to fathom. We haven't lived here very long but Newtown is our town. We were welcomed with open arms. We were blessed to have a church family already in place when we arrived--my visiting teacher helped me unpack before I had even attended church. The friendliness here was noticeable everywhere I went; the bank, the grocery store, the post office. Although we had been homeschooling, I felt confident about the schools here and put our boys in the local high school while I figured out how to network and find resources to make decisions about their education.
As the reality of what was going on yesterday unfolded, a sense of horror and disbelief gripped me while I demanded that Sam: "Find Shane and get out NOW--I am picking you both up." Newtown High School is just down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary. They could hear helicopters and sirens. They saw fellow students called out of class to go to the auditorium. These were the siblings of those who were killed gathered together to hear the terrible news.
We knew that a family in our ward was waiting to hear about their daughter--a kindergartener. They waited with other families at the nearby Fire Station as groups of children were brought out of the school and reunited with their parents. There was no reunion for them. Their little girl was among the dead, left until the crime scene could be thoroughly analyzed. Our Stake president organized a prayer meeting last night at our ward building. Our chapel was filled with our ward family and friends and neighbors. Little Emilie's father was there too. He wanted to thank everyone for their concern and kindness. And he wanted us to know he wasn't angry. He spoke of forgiveness and the comfort his wife felt immediately after getting the terrible news, that their little girl was safe in the arms of her loving Heavenly Father. We who went to show support and some small measure of comfort to them, were instead comforted by a grieving father who understands eternal truths.
There is a beautiful sense of community here--I enjoyed the Labor Day parade on our little Main Street. The Newtown Turkey Trot brought a big turnout of runners and encouragers. The tree lighting ceremony in Ram Pasture is a beautiful tradition in Newtown. Everything here seems to be historical and quaint and idyllic. Driving down the roads of this town at this time of year is like driving through a picture-perfect Christmas card. Superstorm Sandy brought us together as we endured a week without power. We got daily phone calls from our First Selectman (who happens to be a woman) updating us on the efforts to get power restored and roads cleared and informing us of places to charge phones and where to get clean water. She ended each phone call with a reassuring, "Stay safe. Goodnight Newtown." And I thought, "I love this town."
This senseless tragedy is drawing our community even closer together. Our sense of feeling sheltered out here in this little town in the woods has been shattered momentarily. On the news I heard "This town is 300 years old and this is probably the worst thing that has ever happened in this town." It will take some time but faith and hope will see us through. We cancelled our ward Christmas party today. It is an annual event that includes a Nativity play and music put on by our Primary children. Sweet Emilie was to be an angel for the play.
Seeing the outpouring of love and concern and sympathy--
knowing that every parent feels the loss and every human with a heart is touched by the tragedy--