Sandy Hook: After the Shooting, Newtown Struggles On
On Friday morning, Deanne Komlo was tiptoeing through the memorial on Church Hill Road, repositioning teddy bears - wet, matted and facedown from the morning’s showers - one by one against the base of each of the 27 angel cutouts on the grass hill. Some of the stuffed bears tumbled down as soon as she walked away, but she returned and gently placed them on their backs with their arms outstretched, as if they were waiting to be hugged.
Another woman was going around picking up each candleholder and emptying the rainwater that had collected inside. It would rain again before sundown. When the two women reached the bottom of the hill they hugged through tears for several seconds. They had never met before, although Deanne has spent several hours at this memorial since it first appeared last weekend. They discussed what more they could do to help: a bake sale? Snowflake crafts? Prayer? While they talked, a third woman went around straightening any angels that had started to lean, trying to re-secure them in the softened, muddy ground.
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In Newtown, Conn., memorials to the victims of one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history have sprouted up wherever there is open grass or sidewalk space. The piles of offerings along the streets leading to Sandy Hook Elementary School have grown three feet tall and several feet wide, spilling over and blocking sidewalks. Everyone knows that the piles - filled with sealed letters, new toys, candles and flowers - cannot stay here permanently. But even while Deanne accepts that the memorial she tends will eventually have to come down, she continues to maintain it. Like many here, she doesn’t know what else she can do.
It’s been more than a week since 27 people - including 20 children, six school employees and the mother of the shooter - were killed in Sandy Hook, and the community is slowly trying to find a path towards closure. On Friday, a moment of silence, led by Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy, was held at the town hall to mark the one-week anniversary of the tragedy. That evening, a vigil at Fairfield Hills campus drew more than 1,000 people.
On Saturday, Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra announced that the meticulously maintained memorials would be “gathered and processed into soil that will serve in the foundation of a future permanent memorial.” On Sunday afternoon, the flag at the intersection of Church Hill and Main Street was raised to full mast - a position it had not occupied since the shootings on Dec. 14.