Newtown, CT: My Town, Your Town, Our Town

I know Newtown, CT.   I was a reporter for the Danbury News-Times, 1979-1981 and Newtown was my beat. It was my first job out of college. I learned how to write news stories and features, how to work under a deadline, how to conduct interviews, take photographs, and sift the important facts. I learned the ins and outs of town government: budgets, planning and zoning, elections, public health and safety, and also covered education. I attended school board meetings, often late into the night, as budgets and programs were debated and voted upon.

I know Newtown, CT.  Its colonial buildings and old-fashioned town hall could be a set for a 1950’s television show; imagine Lassie running down the street. It’s a town where doors were left open; parents volunteered as Little League coaches; and children played carefree.  The Edmond Town Hall, erected in 1930 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, has a movie theater that runs second-run films daily. When I worked there, tickets were $1; now they’re $2.  I drove the many winding, rural roads, writing stories about the people who lived there.  edmond-town-hall-winter

I wrote features about a bottle collector, a dance teacher, the then principal of the Sandy Hook Elementary School who practiced calligraphy and emphasized handwriting for his school, about high school events from sports to quiz bowls, about how a tax increase affects an individual family, about the controversy to build an addition to the town library, and countless others.

Most of the reporters lived in Danbury, a small city in the northwest part of Connecticut. We rented apartments in the same building, dubbed the “dorm,” and walked a couple blocks to the newsroom.  Our last telephone call before leaving the newsroom, often around midnight when the paper went to bed for the next day’s edition, was to the local police and fire departments of our towns, checking there wasn’t any breaking news.

I don’t envy the reporters covering the tragic news from Newtown, CT.  It’s great copy; there’s no shortage of stories to write, angles to cover, facts to unfold. I’m glad I’m not writing those stories.

I know Newtown, CT.  It’s my town and everyone’s town.

As parent and grandparent, I’m in tears, imagining how grief has usurped holiday joy, how innocence has been lost to violence.

Every time there’s another random slaughter, the clarion cry for gun control resumes. Some prefer to rely on faith. Some urge better mental health intervention.

As a teacher, I’ve taught plenty of students who were loners, preferring to keep to themselves, not joining any cliques or groups. Every child who appears friendless isn’t a potential serial killer.  Yet anyone inclined towards violence can easily obtain a gun.

The answer is clear. Sign the petitions.

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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37 Responses to Newtown, CT: My Town, Your Town, Our Town

  1. Thanks for sharing about the town Lisa and for including the petition.

    Like

  2. Patti Winker says:

    Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your personal story, and for giving voice to our breaking hearts. Imagine a world where assault weapons and handguns are simply unheard of. I can. My stepson and his wife, both teachers, live in South Korea. No guns. No gun violence. They are safe in their home, at school, and out on the town. They were thinking of moving back to the USA and are now having trouble justifying their move. What does that say about us?

    Like

  3. Ariana says:

    I’m heartbroken for those kids and their parents. I sign the petition Lisa .

    Like

  4. Nice piece Lisa. Of course, we are all just grief stricken; it is all so horrible. Beyond gun control, what is really needed is some clear, serious discussion about mental health and how it is addressed in the U.S. As I said in my post, the same crime was committed in China, the very same day as the Newtown murders. However, none of those children died— the man used a knife. At the heart of both incidents: a emotionally unstable person, who should have gotten help. As a nation, we need to wake up to these things! Again, wonderful post.

    Like

  5. Isaac Morris says:

    I can’t help wondering, however, whether the dismantling of the mental health care system that began thirty years ago might not be even more of a problem, together with the dismantling of spiritual and ethical content in education. It’s easy to point at a seemingly obvious problem, and miss the real problems. Guns are banned in China, but 22 children were seriously injured in a school this very month by a knife-wielding assailant. We need to look into the mirror, and focus on what we’re NOT doing to help those in need of mental health treatment, and not just focus on the weapons that sick people might use. They’ll find a weapon; we need to try to find them before they do.

    Like

  6. karen r-w says:

    Instead of upping the mental health treatment they are always cutting funding to internships for psychology students…. Last year only approximately 70% of doctoral students got the required APA approved internship to graduate due to lack of spaces (that’s after they spent 4 years in school studying and paying tuition!)

    Like

  7. Lisa, I enjoyed your post very much. When I lived in Westchester NY for a short while, I would make a trek nearly once a month to a mall in Danbury that was like a young girl’s paradise. I felt so safe and would spend hours there – just being a typical young girl wanting to go shopping. Knowing what this area is like, I can’t believe what’s happened on Friday. We need to do something, that’s for sure. Great article – you’ve really taken me back to what I knew and remember that area to be like.

    Like

  8. My daughter, her husband and two granddaughters live in Newtown, so you can imagine with what dread I phoned her on Thursday. Thankfully, the girls are at another school, but they have friends at Sandy Hook, and are all traumatized by this disaster. The aftershocks will go on for a long time.

    Like

  9. Leah says:

    Very nice post. It’s so tragic I don’t even have words to describe the horror. Thanks for the reminder that this can happen in any town. In our town.

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  10. Thank you, Lisa…this is a wonderful post and I appreciate you sharing your own personal connection with Newtown. We lived less than 30 minutes from there…and some very good friends still live there. It’s a sad day for all…strength and courage and love to those directly impacted! In my post, I also tried to reach out with suggestions of helping kids cope with trauma…one feels helpless in siutations like this one.

    Like

  11. This is such a difficult issue for me as a doctor. I can blame the mental health systems and of course access to guns. It come back to access to guns. This family should never have had access to guns. The risk was too high. You do not need a weapon of this type to protect yourself. So we are back to the issue of guns. The medical and psychiatric part are to complicated to understand. Thanks Lisa.

    Like

  12. karen r-w says:

    It’s a really complicated debate! The other side of the argument is that, just like drugs are illegal yet kids all over the U.S. easily get access to them, bad people will get guns regardless of whether they are illegal – good people just won’t have guns to defend themselves. Interesting clip:

    http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/texas-school-guardian-plan-allows-teachers-guns-174238129.html

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    • Yes, it’s complicated, but have to start somewhere. No need for those sorts of assualt weapons in the hands of general public. Much more surveillance needed on gun ownership- perhaps renewals, etc. like driver’s licenses.

      On Tue, Dec 18, 2012 at 1:38 PM, cyclingrandma

      Like

  13. I was wondering if you had an extra connection to the town. It’s all so sad. Praying for some sense in our gun laws.

    Like

  14. Barbara Klein says:

    It:s easier to get a gun than to open a box of cereal. It;s about time we got our priorities straight.

    Like

  15. hugmamma says:

    Instead of police patrolling campuses with guns prepared to shoot…unarmed adults volunteering their time to nurture and support staff and children…is what’s needed in today’s society where there’s not enough money to buy…good mental health for tomorrow’s adults.

    Like

  16. Louise G. says:

    Lisa, I missed this one when you posted it and am grateful to have found it today. Thank you for sharing your story of a place where tragedy is turning debate into action — action we all need to join in!

    Blessings

    Like

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