Close to Home: Thinking About Newtown

My view of Newtown.

I used to work in Newtown, Connecticut and I lived just down the road in Monroe. I volunteered at the pound, and every once in a while I drive the hour or so back there to visit one of my favorite restaurants. It’s a beautiful town. Exactly what you think of when you picture Connecticut. Beautiful old homes line the main road, and Ram Pasture Park is the kind of place where you see retrievers running in the snow, geese sitting on the pond, and where you can still picture actual rams grazing in the grass. And then there’s the infamous flag pole, which confounds drivers.

I was never really a part of this community, but I know people who are. It’s a community much like the one I grew up in. So when I saw the news today, I was shocked. Sad. Angry.

I sat here watching the news for a while, watching the images of children marching single-file through the parking lot. Listening as elementary school children, with pearl earrings, reported what they’d heard and experienced. I looked at the faces of the newscasters I grew up with as they stumbled over their words, struggled to figure out what was going on, and tried the explain what the hell had happened. Cried with the parents who sobbed as they retrieved their children from the school…or worse.

Eventually I decided to get up and walk the dog. We took the long route, and I streamed NPR to my phone, listening to the news as I walked. It was an unusually beautiful day, today. Not warm, exactly, but not cold. It was clear and sunny, and not so windy that your nose and ears throb. It made me think about 911. 

I was a junior in college. I’d just decided to move off campus and was commuting to school, taking classes all day on Tuesday and Thursday. My philosophy professor came into class visibly shaken up. He canceled  class without much explanation and then walked out. It was a beautiful day, so I went outside and laid in the grass to catch up on some reading. I heard a few snippets of strange conversations, but still didn’t know what had happened when I finally went to my next class. My professor walked in, started talking about the Kennedy assassination and was vague until I raised my hand and told her I didn’t know what she was talking about.

My favorite walking trail in Newtown.

Honestly, I don’t really know what to say, but my default way to process things is to write about them.

Even one incident like this is one too many, but it seems as though, lately, this country is on a roll when it comes to mass shootings. I am not a gun-control nut. Generally, I think people are going to find a way to kill each other with or without guns. But let’s be honest, guns make it a lot easier for one person to kill or hurt a lot of people in a very short amount of time.

And no, I do not accept that the world would be safer if we were all strapping, ready to take out any maniacs that we might encounter. Think about the places where guns are prevalent. Inner cities. Texas. Crime does not go down when gun-ownership goes up. In fact, it does the exact opposite.

It’s easy to be discouraged by the influence of money in our political system, but if we learned anything from our last election is that money only goes so far — especially in the age of social media. Now, more than ever, people have a voice and if you’re tired of seeing scenes like the one in Newtown unfold, it’s time to stop feeling helpless and start making your voices heard. It’s time for a discussion — one that isn’t dominated by the NRA, or Michael Moore. It’s time for a discussion to be had by those of us in the middle — the majority — those of us whose only dog in this fight is our safety. And maybe our conscience.

Update 12/16/12:

It sounds silly. I keep hearing people say it on the news. But it really is hard to believe it happened here.

I was a senior in high school when the Columbine shooting happened. The town was a lot like the one where I attended school, but it was also halfway across the country in a state I’d never been to.

Yesterday I was watching the NBC Nightly news and saw people in the Newtown General Store being interviewed, the very place I used to stop and get a bacon egg and cheese sandwich when I would forget to bring my breakfast with me to the office. Sometimes, if I didn’t have anything for lunch I’d go and get a wrap in the deli. Funnily enough, I kept thinking about that store as I watched all of the media coverage of this terrible shooting. I don’t really know why, it’s just the place I think about when I think of Newtown — right there near the flagpole, surrounded by so many historic buildings.

As I type, President Obama is in Newtown, doing what little he can to comfort the families… getting ready to speak at an interfaith service. It’s very surreal, and all too real at the same time.

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2 thoughts on “Close to Home: Thinking About Newtown

  1. Jason Matthews says:

    Everyone is so saddened by this, thinking of 5 to 10 year-olds being gunned down by a madman with an assault weapon. Is this the act that finally pushes our congress to get real about gun control laws? I hope so.

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