The Norman Transcript

December 11, 2013

Newtown quietly marks anniversary of school shooting

By Michael Melia
The Associated Press

NEWTOWN, Conn. — A year later, inside the big house on Berkshire Road, dolls fill the shelves of a living room and flowers and rainbows decorate a kitchen window, next to a little girl’s name: Avielle.

Outside, Christmas lights shimmer again. But so, too, do the 26 bronze stars that sit atop the local firehouse, one for each adult and child gunned down at a school.

In so many ways, this is a place frozen in time. Ribbons of green — the Sandy Hook Elementary School color — stay tied to mailboxes and storefronts, just as a curly-haired girl smiles from a framed photograph that remains atop a mantel inside Jeremy Richman’s home.

People might assume the hurt that accompanies tragedy fades with time. But, said Richman, who last Dec. 14 lost his only child, “I miss Avielle more every day.”

It’s been a painful and frenetic year for all of Newtown. From horror came despair and attempts at moving beyond one of the nation’s deadliest shootings. There were the logistics of recovery to tend to and decisions about whether to raze the school.

The Labor Day parade marched on, and as foliage turned red and yellow, survivors filed back into school with shaky assurances they would be safe.

Now, the people of Newtown are bracing for the day everyone here calls 12/14.

“For us, it’s not an event. It’s something we live with every single day of our lives,” said Newtown First Selectman E. Patricia Llodra, who called together a panel of community leaders, mental health experts, clergy members and residents to consider what to do about the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. They decided not to host any formal remembrances. Llodra and the victims’ families have urged people to mark the date with acts of kindness.

They will do what they’ve done for a year: balance trying to remember with wanting to forget, and help one another cope with seasons’ worth of grief.

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On a December night, only hours after Adam Lanza carried out his rampage, Llodra stood before a church overflowing with stunned townspeople. As some outside sang “Silent Night,” she took the podium to address those gathered inside for a candlelight vigil.

From that day, through Christmas and the long winter, the families and the town endured immense grief, beginning with an unrelenting procession of funerals, as they grappled with the toll of the tragedy — 20 first-grade children and six educators gunned down in minutes.

Among the clergy members who counseled families that night in the Sandy Hook firehouse was Monsignor Robert Weiss, pastor of the St. Rose of Lima church, who tears up as he remembers the brother of a young victim asking whom he would play with since his sister had been killed.

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