This week has been a strange one. The undercurrent of tragedy following the Connecticut school shooting, combined with the condensed pressure of the holidays, has made it go by in a fog.
On Friday, when I first heard something about a shooting at a mall and at a school, I listened with half an ear. Frankly, I was preoccupied with putting out the paper and the additional activities that come with the end of the year; if it wasn’t in Rockdale, I could deal with it tomorrow.
It was only later in the evening that I realized with a shock the magnitude of exactly what had happened, and that it had happened at my school.
I attended Sandy Hook Elementary from third to fifth grade.
It’s been more than 20 years since I stepped foot in those hallways. All the wonderful teachers I had have long since retired; although, some of the kids I went to school with are probably parents now with kids of their own, and, God forbid, some of them may be attending Sandy Hook.
Everything they’ve described in the broadcasts about Newtown are for the most part true, if cliché. It is a quaint, small town; a bedroom community for larger towns and cities. A great place to raise your family, although probably on the boring side for teenagers.
I remember Newtown through a child’s eye, of course. The downtown that I knew was the ice cream store across the street from the library — a stately former Victorian house converted into a library with the wonderful, musty children’s section upstairs. The community center (or maybe it was a church) that showed free movies on Friday nights. I learned to swim at Newtown High School’s pool, going from being terrified to let go of the wall at the deep end to swimming laps for two hours straight. Here is where I fell head over heels for horses and then a year later, fell just as quickly out of love.
It was a great school community that really nurtured its students. And it had teachers, some mediocre but most of them excellent, who knew the importance of their craft and were dedicated above and beyond to their students. In many ways, like Conyers.
Seeing the news broadcasts has been like seeing your childhood home become the site of the murder of the century.
The hallways that held the fall school carnival when it was rained out; the activity room where the curly-headed music teacher taught the lyrics to a beautiful song in Latin, which we promptly changed in 9-year-old subversion and silliness; The art room where we had Girl Scout meetings; these are now the sites of slaughter. These walls are now witnesses to unspeakable horrors.
It truly is the last place on earth where you would expect something like this to happen.
But even in saying that, it lets me know that maybe this way of thinking was an illusion. Behind closed doors were the same problems and issues that people anywhere face. There is no place you can go that will ever guarantee 100 percent immunity from the problems of the world. Because often, we are the source of much of our problems. Maybe the measure of a community is not just the lack of bad things happening but how we respond when they do. Maybe the best we can do is take care of one another and take care of our community and trust God to take care of the rest.