Friday, December 21, 2012

Our Brave Town



It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. Last Friday, I had just come in from my morning barn chores when at 9:30 the phone rang. It was the school superintendent, an automated message saying there was a lockdown at all schools. I told my husband, and the phone rang again. It was a neighbor saying the rumor that there was a shooter at the high school. My heart started pounding, and for a half an hour, we frantically searched the Internet and TV to find some more information. Then, the news began to rush in, the reality of a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, a few miles from the high school. We could hear sirens and helicopters. Friends began calling, crying, showing up at our house to stare mesmerized at the television while the horror was revealed.

At one point, I had to take the dog outside and I stood in the sunshine, breathing fresh air and noticing, almost as if for the first time, how beautiful it is here. I looked all over the East Coast to find a safe community with good schools when we moved here eight years ago. Now, I reflected that this hideous violence was a random act, and while it could have happened anywhere, it happened here in this place where we are. I wondered what the meaning of it would be for us, my daughter who is 17, my husband and myself. I also knew that it was too soon to understand why we were about to be a part of something so tragic, but that eventually, it would have a meaning and would be something that changed our lives.

It’s impossible to describe the last week, so I will only focus on the moments of kindness and compassion that we have experienced.  My daughter’s teachers and the school staff have been so brave and sensitive and caring, especially as the kids went back to school on Tuesday. One great source of comfort for my child was the K9 Comfort therapy dogs that were here to cuddle and distract everyone if they needed a moment to compose themselves and find strength. My daughter has provided solace to her friends and classmates as they struggle to overcome their fears and now, as they attend wakes and funerals, and I am so proud of her.  People here are wide open, vulnerable and so loving.

At every turn, there is a reminder of what happened. Little shrines and handmade signs dot the country roads. On the main highway, there had been a recent construction project and the big lighted signs that once said “Roadwork ahead” now say, “God bless our angels. Thanks to our heroes.”  It’s been hard to get around town with the media and the visitors from all over the country. There were seven camera crews hovering around the high school when I picked up my daughter on Tuesday afternoon.  If I drive to the grocery store, I wait and cry as the funeral processions pass by. When I go to nearby towns, total strangers see the little sticker with the rooster that is our town mascot on my car, and they stop me to give me hugs and offer condolences. I am so proud tell people that I live here.

We struggle to decorate the tree, send the presents to our family in California, try to act like everything is fine and normal when we visit my mom at the nursing home.  This morning, I got up at 5 am and made a huge casserole dish of bbq turkey meatballs for a teacher appreciation luncheon being held at school. We carry on, and each day, receive an email update from the high school principal that begins and ends with these words:

Our collective strength and resilience will serve as an example to the rest of the world. Be strong, Newtown.


16 comments:

Nor’dzin said...

Sending you heartfelt wishes of comfort and condolence.

Victoria Cummings said...

Thanks, Nor'dzin - so good to hear from you!

billie said...

I am so sorry for all you and your community are going through - and send all my warmest condolences and wishes that this tragedy will bring some light to the issues surrounding how this kind of thing can happen and how best we as a nation might prevent future occurrences. Bless those children and their families especially. Such heartbreaking loss for all of them.

Grey Horse Matters said...

It's still so hard for me to believe this tragedy happened so close to home. We are a quiet community where no one ever thought something like this could happen. Words can't express the sadness felt at this time for the families. I don't know how they will ever get through this grief.

Lori Skoog said...

Victoria..this post says so much about what has happened. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I am glad your daughter is safe and so sorry for the families that have lost loved ones. It's hard to imagine the raw emotion that is being experienced in your town. It must be difficult to have the media filling up your streets reminding everyone of what has happened over and over. I hope they will let your community start to heal very soon. Big hugs to you and your family. And yes, those therapy dogs have been so good for the soul.

Victoria Cummings said...

Billie, Arlene, Lori - Thanks. We just had a moment of silence at 9:30 to honor the dead. It's raining so hard here. The sky is crying. Every time I hug my daughter, my heart breaks for those families. We must not let this be forgotten. We must stop this kind of violence.

Lindsay said...

I've been reading your blog for some time now, but did not realize you were from Newtown. I'm a teacher in South Carolina, but lived in Monroe my whole life (up until 5 years ago). My friends daughter goes to Sandy Hook, thankfully she was at home on the 14th. Watching the news has broken my heart. Seeing places so familiar and loved, now famous for a horrible atrocity is so surreal. I can't imagine what you all are going through. My middle school students have said a prayer for you all every morning this week and will continue to do so.

Victoria Cummings said...

Lindsay - Please tell your students that it does all of our hearts so much good to know that they are praying for everyone in Newtown. As your friend whose daughter goes to Sandy Hook will tell you, the aftermath for the children who were in the school, who were fortunate enough not to be at school that day and who had at one time gone to the school is really devastating. They need our help to heal and to learn to not live in fear after this tragedy. Thanks for your comment.

C-ingspots said...

Oh Victoria, the whole nation has been crying and praying for your town's people. Such tragedy is beyond understanding, but resilience and prayer is what will bring everyone through and past it. The precious angels are blessed and are alright now, but the families who remain need prayers and comfort. Please know we are all with you in love and spirit. May God's blessings comfort and reassure you all in this sad time.

Annette Mickelson said...

Wow... I had no idea you lived in Newtown. In my mind, you were "back East" in a vague way. I didn't even assign you a State. Thank you for sharing your experience with this. My eyes still sting with tears when I think about those kids and their brave teachers. I'm sending you a hug from California.

Grey Horse Matters said...

My granddaughter's music teacher put this following song together to help start the healing:

http://org.musictogether.com/songs/32MAC.mp3?utm_source=Copy+of+Copy+of+Copy+of+Copy+of+Copy+of+Email+Created+2012%2F12%2F08%2C+11%3A20+PM&utm_campaign=Constant+Contact+email&utm_medium=email

They did ring a bell 26 times at my younger granddaughter's pre-school this morning and played this song. There is also a video version:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgNftzBfe44

the7msn said...

Count me among those who had no idea you lived in Newtown. I can't begin to fathom what this past week has been like for you and your family and neighbors. I hope you'll all be able to find whatever small moments of peace and joy you can in the days ahead.

Strawberry Lane said...

Our hearts are all breaking over this senseless tragedy. We heard about the Comfort Dogs, just made us cry. We cannot begin to imagine such grief. We send you hugs and heartfelt wishes to you, your community, and all the families that are going through such pain. This kind of tragedy must stop. The world needs to work for peace and love. This heartbreak will not be forgotten.

Victoria Cummings said...

Thanks to everyone - You never knew I lived in Newtown because until this happened,no one ever even knew where Newtown was, and we value our privacy around here. It was like a little hidden haven. But over the past week, as I saw more and more acts of bravery and kindness, I began to feel the need to shout it out that I'm really glad to be a part of this wonderful community.

detroit dog said...

I'm so sorry for the many losses, the grief, the heartache.

Your community's strength and resilience in this time is hopeful, and that's a gift for us all.

Oak in the Seed said...

Blessings and peace as you negotiate this incomprehensible tragedy and the full attention and compassion of this entire country. Prayers are forever that hope and healing will support all of you who grieve both near and far.