Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sandy Hook CT Through My Eyes & My Camera

Image of Sandy Hook memorial with angel quote.
As I mentioned in my Good Riddance 2012 post, I live very close to where the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy occurred. We often go to the little Sandy Hook Diner for an early Saturday morning breakfast and walk along the river that passes through the center of town. The Sandy Hook portion of Newtown is a quiet little place with friendly people and a small business district along its main street controlled by one traffic light at its center.

Usually when we sit at a table in the diner enjoying our early morning breakfast we watch a sleepy little town gradually come awake. People are grabbing a bite to eat while reading the paper or walking their pets along the sidewalks. We see an occasional car travel up the street and the traffic picks up as the morning progresses. The conversation in the diner is friendly with occasional bursts of laughter. We can absorb the small town atmosphere so much like our town as we relax over breakfast and numerous coffee refills. This all changed at 9:30 a.m. on December 14, 2012.

When I happened to turn on the television for a quick break that Friday, I was stunned at what I saw and what I heard. For the next 48 hours all of our local TV stations were solid wall to wall coverage of the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. We like many others were glued to the television and listening to the fire radio of our town which had gone to assist Sandy Hook.

It was surreal seeing all of the places we were familiar with and frequently patronized on the national news coverage. Just watching the coverage we wondered how on earth all of those media trucks were fitting into such a small space. Our hearts were breaking for the families and it was hard to grasp that something so terrible could happen so close to home and to such innocent victims.

After the tragedy at the elementary school, we avoided going into Sandy Hook because of the massive media presence and the congestion of people. We finally went back to the diner for an early morning breakfast after the majority of the media had gone home and only a few of our local media stations remained. What we saw and experienced brought us to tears and pictures cannot truly capture the atmosphere and the change in this small little part of the world.

Prior to the diner opening for breakfast, we walked down the street to the foot of the hill from the Sandy Hook Elementary School and spent quite a bit of time wandering through the memorials. The scope and size of these memorials was mind-boggling and emotionally overwhelming. Everywhere you looked there were signs of grief and an overpowering sense of unity and support. Photos just do not capture the enormity of the sight or the gut-wrenching feelings evoked. 

The sun had not started to rise yet and the darkness illuminated by floodlights watching over the memorials provided a very peaceful atmosphere. We spoke softly to the police guarding the memorials and securing the road up to the school. They were from various towns around the area outside of Sandy Hook and we let them know we appreciated their presence.

After visiting the memorials we sat in the diner over breakfast looking out of the windows toward the street and watching the sun rise. As it became lighter outside the full impact of what we were observing hit us hard.

  • Signs of all kinds, wreaths, green ribbons, balloons and red Christmas stockings filled with toys covering the bridge over the river.
  • Large spontaneous memorials filled with flowers, balloons, candles, wreaths, signs, flags, ribbons and every kind of stuffed animal and angel you can imagine. 
  • There were street corners, sidewalks, doorways and grassy embankments covered with symbols of sorrow, love and support. 
  • White tents erected over the memorials to protect the out-pouring of love and support from the rain and wind.
  • Police officers from surrounding towns standing guard over the memorials and blocking the hill up to the school.
  • Orange cones along the edge of the street preventing cars from parking and blocking access to the memorials. 
  • Cars with license plates from all over America moving slowly up the street, pulling along the sidewalk and stopping.
  • People in all manner of dress and of all ages getting out of cars and walking toward the memorials carrying flowers, balloons and stuffed toys...many of them crying as they walked.
  • Solitary individuals, families and groups of people wearing ribbons and splashes of green in honor of Sandy Hook. Green and white are the school colors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
  • Signs of unity, memory and prayer hanging in business windows and from the roofs of buildings up and down the streets. 
  • Police officers and police cars from all over Connecticut on the streets to take on all sorts of duties for Newtown.
  • A grieving family in black limos being escorted by two State police cars and 5 motorcycle police to the church up the street for the funeral of their little lost angel.

Here we were sitting in our familiar diner, but the atmosphere and sights were so different from the usual comfortable experience. The mood was quietly somber, although people were trying to carry on as normal. We could tell that the staff at the diner and the locals with us had been shell shocked just like us by all the things that had happened and were ongoing.

As we drove back home through town in the morning light we were in awe of all the visible symbols of a caring nation for this small town and the families of those lost in the tragedy.

  • Green and white ribbons strung on mailboxes, trees, poles and anything that they could be wrapped around.
  • Large green and white ribbons displayed on the buildings of large regional and national businesses in the area.
  • Signs and angels in the windows and on the buildings of businesses and private homes.
  • Spontaneous memorials started in a yard or on an embankment near the road that had grown over time from people stopping and adding their mementos to the collection.
  • Signs, ribbons, balloons and flags hanging from overpasses for those on the roads and highways below to see.
  • Memorials at the high school, churches and town hall that have grown overtime.
  • Collections of 26 flags, candles or angels populating yards and roadside areas representing the people lost.
  • Garlands of all kinds strung between trees in yards. One of the most poignant to me was a garland of 6 large white angels interspersed among 20 smaller white doves.

We saw traffic building to the extent that people were parking their cars along roads quite a distance from the center of Sandy Hook and walking with their keepsakes to the large memorial. There were spontaneous memorials at the freeway exit and entrance ramps where people had placed items because they were unable to make it into Sandy Hook due to the congestion.

Everywhere we looked we saw people remembering those lost and showing their support for those suffering. The surrounding towns have similar symbols of support along streets, at churches, in businesses and on the town greens. I have not seen anything like this since the national tragedy of 9/11.

From this out-pouring of love I see great hope for the future, but also wonder how this tragedy will change our area and our nation in the days, weeks, months and years to come. May we never forget...

Here are some of our pictures from Sandy Hook. Although they cannot begin to show the true scope of what we saw, they may give you a flavor of the aura surrounding the town. The memorials continued to grow after our visit until they were dismantled this week and preserved.

Image of flag at the center of Newtown CT.
Flag in the center of Newtown, CT

Image of Sandy Hook Diner.
Diner in Sandy Hook, CT with the elementary school memorials in the distance

Image of Sandy Hook main street with memorials at center.
Center of Sandy Hook, CT with elementary school memorials. This was after sunrise.

Image of Sandy Hook Elementary School memorials.
Memorials surrounding bridge in center of Sandy Hook, CT

Image of memorial at bridge in Sandy Hook center.
Memorial at edge of bridge in Sandy Hook, CT

Image of bridge memorial in Sandy Hook.
Different view of the memorial at the bridge edge in Sandy Hook, CT

Image of keepsakes at bridge in Sandy Hook.
Mementos left at the bridge in Sandy Hook, CT

Image or more keepsakes left at the Sandy Hook bridge.
More keepsakes left at the bridge in Sandy Hook, CT

Image of sign and Christmas stocking hanging on bridge in Sandy Hook.
Sign and Christmas Stockings filled with toys hanging from the bridge in Sandy Hook, CT

Image of large memorial at center of Sandy Hook.
Memorials at the foot of the elementary school road in the center of Sandy Hook, CT looking up toward diner

Image of large memorials at foot of hill to school in Sandy Hook.
Road closed to elementary school and memorials at center of Sandy Hook, CT

Image of Sandy Hook Elementary School memorials.
Sandy Hook Elementary School Memorials

Image of Sandy Hook memorials spreading along road.
Sandy Hook Elementary School Memorials at center of Sandy Hook, CT

Image of wreaths for the victims in Sandy Hook.
26 wreaths for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy

Image of memorial at foot of Sandy Hook School road.
Police presence securing road to elementary school and watching over the memorials

Image of keepsakes at foot of Sandy Hook school road.
Smaller memorial on the corner leading up to the Sandy Hook Elementary School

Image of memorial in front of a Sandy Hook shop.
Memorial mementos spreading down the street in front of shops in Sandy Hook, CT

Image of bench filled with keepsakes in Sandy Hook.
Bench in front of shop near the memorials in Sandy Hook, CT

Image of large memorial filled with keepsakes at the center of Sandy Hook.
One of the large memorials in the center of Sandy Hook, CT

Image of keepsakes inside a Sandy Hook Memorial.
Looking inside one of the memorials for Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims

Image of more keepsakes within a Sandy Hook memorial.
Another peek into a memorial in the center of Sandy Hook, CT

Image of angels and stuffed toys along a roadside in Sandy Hook.
Angels along the roadside in Sandy Hook, CT collecting keepsakes

Image of row of trees in neighboring town to Sandy Hook decked out in green ribbons.
Neighboring town green of Southbury, CT with 26 trees dressed in green ribbons

Image of one of 26 trees in neighboring town to Sandy Hook decorated with a green ribbon and a victim's name.
1 of 26 trees along the Southbury, CT town green decorated with a green ribbon and a victim's name

Image of pavilion in neighboring town to Sandy Hook decorated for Christmas and memoral for victims.
Southbury, CT town green pavilion decorated for the holidays and support of Sandy Hook, CT

Image of wreath with 26 angels for Sandy Hook neighbors.
Wreath of angels on Southbury, CT town green.

Image of large memorial ribbon for Sandy Hook.
Ribbon of Honor for Sandy Hook, CT hanging on the Southbury, CT town green pavilion

Thank you for visiting my blog today and allowing me to share my Sandy Hook, CT experience and photography with you. I hope you enjoyed your visit and will come back soon! Tomorrow I will be sharing my first handmade card for 2013 and information on how I made it.

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  1. I came across your blog and just wanted you to know how wonderful I think it is. I have cousins who live in Newtown, and spent much time there as a child. It was always such a happy, safe place, and seems so surreal that it is the same town that could be home to such a massive tragedy. However, I really enjoyed your blog because you have done what no one else has done. Most news channels focus on the bad, the shooting and the following funerals and bomb threats, while your blog has showed the other side, and should-be more prominent side of Newtown and the surrounding area. It shows an area who will bounce back. An area who will not immediately forget, nor will they forget anytime soon, but a town and area that is very strong and will show the world that even in this violence-filled society, there is support, care, and love for one another still out there. So, thank you. It was really a pleasure reading your blog. God bless :)

    1. Thank you for your generous comment. Sandy Hook, its people and the small surrounding communities are very special and I just wanted to share what I see as a local. Each time I'm in Sandy Hook I see a little more normalcy and a lot of strength. There's still a ton of support for the community which is wonderful to experience and see.


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