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December 14, 2013

Newtown faces grief

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, all around town, 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 one unimaginable day.

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 century-old home.

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

It’s been a painful and frenetic year, for the Richmans and for all of Newtown. From horror came despair and, soon, 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 where so many perished.

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

Now, with winter on their doorstep once again, the people of Newtown are bracing for the day everyone here simply calls 12/14.

“For us, it’s not an event. It’s something we live with every single day of our lives,” says 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. To avoid drawing more media attention, they decided not to hold any formal remembrances. Llodra and the victims’ families have urged people to mark the date with acts of service and kindness.

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