Going Home


I DRESS ROBOTICALLY for a party friends had planned months ago, a party I now have no stomach for. I nod and smile because I am expected to nod and smile, in the midst of kind, genuine, and very smart people. At any other time I would feel lucky to be among them, but I am mostly not there, floating a few feet above myself, in the low-hanging unreality of butchery and loss. I do not mention Connecticut, even when it’s peripherally brought up. A few people express vague condolences or make easy jokes—both understandable as a way of dealing with an intolerable subject. But I do not respond. Speaking about it cheaply would seem like a betrayal.

This weekend I will fly to JFK—silently aware of the grim ballistic association—and then drive with my wife and eight-year-old daughter to Newtown, CT.

To celebrate Christmas.

Because I grew up in Newtown. In fact, I attended Sandy Hook Elementary as a child, took the bus there every day for a year. I remember the halls and the long curving driveway. I remember footsteps painted on the macadam telling us where to go. They were supposedly left by the Jolly Green Giant—a seventies staple who has since faded into oblivion, even as a spokesman for peas. I felt comforted by those green outlines, and the cardboard bricks we stacked obsessively at recess, and the blue turtleneck that I wore like a uniform. I remember the soft light and the friendly teachers and the smell of disinfectant on hallway tile.

Which just makes it hurt all the more, this umbilical connection. That was my school, and my town. From Seattle I watched our president deliver a speech from the stage on which I also watched freshman orientations and junior assemblies and senior talent shows.

It was bizarre and disconcerting and without an acceptable context.

Like many of my classmates, I couldn’t wait to leave Newtown once I turned eighteen. I wanted to go somewhere bigger, more urban, more urbane. And although I did exactly that, over the years I have come to love Newtown from three thousand miles away. Each fall I look forward to a December reunion, to the thick stands of oak and pine, to untended fields and unpaved roads, a place both staid and fraught with history. In the summer, when it’s deeply humid and the ivy droops with ticks and the air is choked with mustard flower and skunk cabbage, it’s possible to raise your chin and stare off over the horizon without feeling ridiculous, a revolutionary in a tricorne cap, stern and unbowed.

But Newtown is far from perfect—part Norman Rockwell and part Roseanne, full of muscle cars and soccer fields, metalheads and Vineyard Vines, ridiculous columnar mansions looming over ramshackle lots. A Manhattan wealth increasingly blooms through the remains of a long-shuttered manufacturing past. Even the implausibly bad-ass White Birch eventually gave way to Cumberland Farms and then Big Y, not entirely for the better. Nevertheless, Newtown is an honest and genuinely beautiful place.

Typing that sentence makes me want to send my love to all my friends and family and former neighbors, to the victim’s families, to the parents who received that unimaginable phone call, to everyone who lives, lived, or ever grew up there. We are forever tied together, for both the best and worst of all possible reasons.

Twelve girls, eight boys. Barely seven years old. First graders.

That alone is an essay. It is haiku for loss, without the seven syllables of absolution. There is no pretending horror can be spun into a redemptive cliché.

To lose a child, particularly in a violent manner, is beyond reckoning. Or belief. Or typing a worthy sentence about. When I sat down at my keyboard after a few days of emotionally curling up on the basement floor, I wanted to write something imbued with meaning. I wanted to comfort and inspire and transcend. But I find that I don’t have the words. Or the presumption to even try and conjure them.

In the meantime, something vital has clearly changed. For the first time in my life, at long last, it seems as if there may be some movement on gun control. Just as the embrace of gay rights and the beginning of the end of the drug war was inexorable, we have entered an era of relative sophistication in America—one which sits uneasily alongside certain ugly but unavoidable truths. The recognition of global warming may indeed arrive after the globe has irretrievably warmed, but it too will become an accepted part of the national discourse. The opposition will fall away as it always does—to be remembered dimly as the province of gun lobbyists and oil subsidizers, embodied in revanchist dinosaurs like Wayne LaPierre, Mitch McConnell, and Antonin Scalia.

But change is not here today, and so is too late to have averted the shattering events of last Friday. Not that any particular legislation or creeping cultural enlightenment would have prevented Adam Lanza from accessing his mother’s weaponry, let alone giving in to whatever virulent strain of madness gripped him on that morning. But it is possible, had a reasonable set of gun access and mental health laws been in place for even a decade prior, that the culture of mass violence in America might have shifted—just enough to spare—toward the rational.

I know many people who say none of this should even be discussed until all the children of Sandy Hook Elementary have been interred and properly mourned for. And I understand that completely. Part of me feels the same way. But another part argues that not a minute can be lost. That the sort of raw anguish and outrage this incident has galvanized—precisely the sort required for any meaningful discussion, let alone political movement in this seemingly broken country—is vital and fleeting.

There are 300 million guns in America, and more are coming. I understand the desire to acquire one, as well as the relatively hysterical fear that the government might arbitrarily decide to take that right away. If I lived somewhere like Montana or New Mexico, far from a reliable police response and among large animals that have remained stubbornly undomesticated, I might own a gun myself. But it would almost certainly be an unfashionable lever or bolt-action rifle. It would not be semi-automatic. It would not have extended magazines. It would not be loaded with armor-piercing bullets.

Twenty children.

Six teachers, all women.

What we need, just as much as sane, baseline legislation, is to start seeing these events for what they really are. “Tragedy” suggests infrequence. “Mass shooting” implies a random and unpredictable deed. “Act of a madman” pretends that we bother to identify the mad, let alone spend the money to treat them. “An expression of evil” lets everyone off the hook, as if it were something metaphysical, preordained, or inscrutably Nietzschean. It is exactly the opposite. These incidents are the direct result of institutionalized, heavily funded, and cravenly protected invitations to slaughter.

There is a very specific brand of American behavior with a recent, iconic precedent (Columbine), regular copycat behavior (thirty-six incidents since 1999), and a winking cinematic echo chamber (name the movie where the anti-hero fires a million rounds and everyone just ducks). This easily identified pattern has increased in lockstep with the martyr/body armor/assault-fantasy culture that has otherwise permeated young male consciousness. All six of the adults killed at Sandy Hook were female. And almost all the perpetrators of earlier shootings were emotionally impotent young white males with elaborate, arcane, and ultimately unexplained grievances. It’s the same story, told repeatedly, an invocation of sullied names that Adam Lanza currently stands at the head of. Quiet loners. Bullied. Friendless. A suspicion of mental illness gone untreated and ignored. A family’s lack of health insurance vs. the relative affordability of counseling.

I can’t get the image of children cowering out of my head.

Not five angry shots. Not a dozen. A cold hundred. Two hundred. A level of madness that is all-encompassing and terrifying in its airless, emotionless void.

The price of freedom in America has always been the willingness to do what is right in the face of profit, from Eugene V. Debs to Ralph Nader. While it is our greatest failing that we do not more often subvert the clearly self-serving, it is also our greatest strength that we sometimes overcome entrenched interests to do what is moral and ethical in the face of rote opposition.

Every statistic has already been cited, every study referred to, every polemic argued, politicized, and abused. The same tired pro-gun bromides are trotted out, easy to refute but impossible to impart to those who refuse to traffic in logic. We are alone among the “civilized” nations of the world in that we hide behind a cynical, intentional misreading of our own Constitution to justify access to the tools of slaughter. Despite knowing nothing of our Founders’ true intent—save the fact that colonial militias were armed with single-shot muskets—we can no longer accept the fallacy that assault rifles, semi-automatic handguns, extended magazines, and military-grade ammunition have a place among the citizenry.

Further, we cannot accept that an exploding and for-profit prison system has been allowed to replace, at vast taxpayer expense, a facsimile of national mental health care.

Those who continue to argue against reasonable regulation, who continue to insist that they will not trade a small infringement of their “rights” in order to end a cycle of violence and madness that is only accelerating are from this point forward complicit in the murder of our children.

Newtown will eventually recover, without ever quite being the same. Its name is now etched into pundit shorthand, a cheap metaphor for tragedy: Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, 101 California. It is truly wrenching that my town—our town—will be both a national reference as well as (just possibly) the catalyst for new and meaningful change.

Until then, twenty young names will have borne the burden of our inaction and obstinacy.

This country deserves better. The parents of Sandy Hook Elementary deserve better. Six teachers deserve better. A small town’s group of first responders—police, fire, and ambulance, who had to walk into a building and make sense of a scene no one should ever have to face—they deserve so much better.

There is no argument or excuse left.




About Sean Beaudoin

Sean Beaudoin (@seanbeaudoin) is the author of five novels, including The Infects and Wise Young Fool. His new short story collection, Welcome Thieves, is just out with Algonquin Books.
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44 Responses to Going Home

  1. I am a parent who is a resident of Sandy Hook, CT. We are Newtown and propose a Sandy Hook Memorial at Fairfield Hills, a place where residents can find peace and solace and children can play. Please like and share if you agree!

  2. Chris Brand says:


    This was great. Thanks for writing it and sharing it with everyone.

  3. Rich Pesce says:

    Wonderful piece Sean. Thank you for sharing. I think you capture our wonderful hometown so well. Newtown is an honest and genuinely beautiful place. It is part Norman Rockwell and part Roseanne. (Maybe even a little bit Mayberry when we were kids). The White Birch was bad-ass, and you certainly would get no argument from me that its demise, and many of the changes to our town are not for the better. But it will always be our town – and I think that’s what you capture so well in this piece.
    We must never forget the promise of every life that was taken that morning hope that along with the heroism and solidarity that has emerged – we will see changes in our gun culture.

  4. Gloria says:

    I can’t get the image of those babies cowering in fear out of my head either, Sean. And then I just start crying all over again.

    Thanks for writing this. I hope you’re right.

    • Susan says:

      I can’t get this image out of my head and I too cry everytime I think of it-which is at least once a day.I wish there was someone to tell me that these children never saw what was coming but there is no one to say it because it probably isn’t the case.I don’t have any words to say to comfort anyone as I can’t find comfort myself.I thought of these families the entire Christmas holiday and the fact that they are spending it without those beautiful people in it.It’s left a hole in my heart the size of my fist -can’t even imagine what they feel.I’ll pray for these people everyday for the rest of my life-a small thing to many but it helps me just a little…

  5. Erika Rae says:

    Thank you, Sean. It took me 13 years to write about Columbine, and here you’ve done it with such grace. You were right to do it. We as a nation are out of time. No more stalling. I’m glad you’re going home, although it will be hard. But you will *be there.*

  6. Hank says:

    All I can say is thanks.

  7. Jeanne Comaskey says:

    Sean, I know how heart wrenchingly painful this was for you to write. It is truly beautiful and I hope it brings some peace to you. I know it will begin the healing for others. I’ll be thinking of you K and S over the holidays xoxo

  8. Reb Buckley says:

    Sean –




  9. Sean Cooney says:


    I’m friends with Chris Bauer, and my sister lives in Newtown with her two kids who would have been in Sandy Hook ES had they not moved across town jutst this past summer. Loved your article and plan to post it to my FB page. Thank you.

    -Sean Cooney

  10. Betsy Civilette McElfresh says:

    Thank you Sean. We absolutely need to speak out on gun control and especially mental health access. As I sit here working for a state agency that helps people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities find employment, independence and security, I hope that I can make a small dent to change people’s view on mental disabilities. As a parent, I hope this a wake up call for all of us to look out for all children and not stigmatize and label and isolate others.

    I, too, am so disheartened to have Newtown become a metaphor for massacre and hope that this is an impetus for action.


  11. Mike Nesi says:

    Thank you, my friend, for putting these thoughts into words in only the way you can.

  12. Bill Waters says:

    Sean what an amazing piece. I don’t consider myself a writer but I also felt a need to express to the world what is great about our hometown. I did my best on Friday night and put it up on my Facebook page for my few dozen friends to see. I’ll post it below, I had a lot of the same memories.
    I think we all agree something needs to be done. I just want it to be well thought out and right. Knee-jerk and emotional responses may have adverse results. I too moved away soon after graduation, mostly for better opportunities and better weather. I settled in LA. I don’t own a gun, probably never will. To be honest they kind of scare me. I really don’t have an answer, not sure anyone does, but living in Los Angeles for 20 years I lived through 2 events that I can’t help factor into my thoughts.
    First was the Rodney King riots, it was very scary and the police were out numbered. I was 22 years old and the first place I ran to was my neighbor downstairs that I knew had a gun. It is not impossible for a situation like that to happen again, and I have to be honest, as much as I hate guns my comfort and safety level was directly proportional to the size of his rifle.
    The second event happened 3 blocks from my apartment. That was the Bank of America robbery and shootout of 1996. The 2 robbers had illegal fully automatic AK-47s and the police were heavily over matched. The police had to go to a local gun shop where the owner gave police his own personal guns (that were at the time on the banned list of weapons) capable of penetrating the body armor of the suspects.
    So my concern is that will outlawing certain weapons just be a speed bump for the bad guys who really want them and actually prevent the people who may need them from having them? I myself wrestle with the answer to that.
    Thanks again for your insightful thoughts. We ARE Newtown.
    This was my post on Friday night:

    Today was not the way I wanted the world to find out about the great town where I spent a good part of my childhood. I always revere my youth as special and somewhat unique, but then again so don’t most of us. I live in Los Angeles now and when I talk to my local friends and conversations drift to our wonder years, I can’t help but think I have got the better memories. After all I lived in Newtown CT. Before today the Newtown school system’s biggest claim to fame was that it spawned Olympic Gold Medalist Bruce Jenner. If only that was still the case. Unfortunately after today Newtown will be known as “that town”. I spent nearly half my childhood growing up in “that town”. My parents built their first home at the end of Hanover Rd, on Lake Lillinona. Newtown was a place where most things were named after Native Americans or early Patriots of this great country. Memorize the names of the streets, lakes and parks and you could pass a history class. Our doors were never locked; hell I don’t even think we had a set of keys to the house! It was a place where traffic was so scarce my sister took the training wheels off my bike and taught me how ride on two wheels in the middle of the street. Our neighbor, Ronnie Greeman drove by and cheered me on until I crashed into the thick brush at the end of his driveway and came out with those sticky round balls all over me that must have been the inspiration for velcro. Ronnie grew Rhubarb in his back yard and my mom would make pies and a funky lemonade concoction out of it every year. And even though I hated the stuff, I could not wait to try it every year in hopes that I might acquire a taste for it, it never happened but it became an annual ritual and I was convinced that Newtown was the only place that stuff would grow. And where else was firewood considered a form of currency?
    My dad taught me how to fish off the rocky shores of that hidden lake, the best thing I ever caught down there was my dad’s sense of humor while we waited for fish to bite. And come to think of it, the best bite I ever got was the frost bite when I would skate on the same lake when it froze up during the cold and snowy winters. Some of my neighbors had horses, when you are a child few things are more fascinating than those gentle, giant creatures and I got to interact with them regularly. I remember the foliage was so lush that you could barely see the next homes lights through the leaves at night and we would make short cut paths between friends houses because it was way easier than walking up and down driveways that to a 7 year old seemed like miles. And who didn’t catch fireflies under moon light and put them in a jar to bring to school the next day only to find out they didn’t survive the night? By the time attendance was called, the only thing I had to show for my efforts was a jar of dead flies and poison ivy on my arms and neck.
    And my dad had this thing he called a hobby… racing stock cars, I think my mom called it a money pit, but I’ll never forget the day my dad gave the neighborhood kids a ride up and down Hanover Rd in it. That car was loud as hell and the kids went into a frenzy over it. I don’t know what that thing cost, but I am pretty sure that day, we all thought it was the best money ever spent.
    Every Halloween the local catholic school would ironically put on a haunted house long before they became popular everywhere else. There was a home on my street that would give out vintage bottles of coke to trick or treaters that we would drink before we got home because mom would not let us have soda. And speaking of haunted, everyone that grew up in Newtown had a story about “The Warrens” a local ghost chasing couple that had us telling scary stories around campfires for years.
    There was barely a traffic light in town and after dark they would just flash yellow, for the longest time I thought that is what every signal did at night. And the ice cream shop, the pizza villa, the gas station on church hill road, all family owned. No corporate, faceless chain stores. The hillsides littered with classic American architecture and barns that appeared to be the size of a mall. People knew you by name and would greet you with a genuine and sincere smile. Everyone knew everyone else and even if you were not a local, you were treated like one.
    Today the world was introduced to Newtown for all the wrong reasons. All it’s great history in the shaping of our country forever scarred. If only it knew what I and so many others that lived here knew: Newtown is not “that town”, Newtown is our Home town

    • Cathy Chandler says:

      Bill, your story about Newtown, “your hometown” was so filled with love and remembrance of how all children should remember this town!……except now 20 young souls just like yours will never be able to pass this love for their hometown on to their children! It is stories like yours that need to be passed on to help heal your “town” and so many other small towns like yours across the United States and the world! Thank you for sharing! Cathy Chandler from Dedham, Maine (another small town just like yours…..

  13. Ruth Harney says:

    I worked in Sandy Hook when I was sixteen, the year Sandy Hook E.S. was built. I remember Hawley Warner behind the counter at the gr0cery store, Roz Tilson and his mother working upstairs in dried goods, Mr. and Mrs. Clark at the meat counter. My mother fell on a piece of lettuce in the store and Hawley Warner was so grateful when she said there’d be no lawsuit, she just wanted her doctor bills paid. I worked at the pharmacy that Bob Keane owned, had pizza at Cantone’s and eclairs from the bakery. Every Friday Ma would phone in her grocery order and Dave Carmody would deliver them with Ken Berglund to our home on Fish Rock Rd. in Southbury. We called it “The Hook,” and it was the rougher part of Newtown, including a motorcycle shoot out at the Milot’s bar next door to the pharamacy. I was a soda jerk, making sundaes. Randy Watkins used to come in to joke around. My daughter teaches today at Newtown High, Southbury’s long time sports rival. We all knew Dawn, the principal who was killed. My daughter first taught with her in New Milford, knew her at Region 14, and again in Newtown. She was going to move to Sandy Hook School if the full time kindergarten was passed by the budget. It didn’t pass, so Ellie stays at the high school. I have wonderful memories of Sandy Hook, later worked for Dr. C. Johnson, the dentist at Main St. when I was in my twenties. Main St., Church Hill Rd., the route of Rochambeau’s march to Yorktown during the Revolutionary War. The French soldiers shot through the rooster weathervane on the Congregational Church as they headed toward Ridgefield.

  14. Julia Smith Reda says:

    Your words put a lump in my throat. So well said Sean.

  15. Kate Valakos (Fuller) says:

    Sean, I too grew up in Newtown and moved away. Your piece is absolutely terrific. So many similar feelings of grief and memories. Your opinion on guns is spot on. Thank you, Kate

  16. Rich M. says:

    And when you get here Sean, we’ll welcome you into our collective embrace.

    Thank you for writing this.

  17. Tammy Allen says:

    “Those who continue to argue against reasonable regulation, who continue to insist that they will not trade a small infringement of their “rights” in order to end a cycle of violence and madness that is only accelerating are from this point forward complicit in the murder of our children.”

    I agree 100%

    I am a resident of Tucson, AZ and as a volunteer for the Democratic Party I had many occasions where I spoke with Gabby Giffords who was shot on January 8, 2011. Our new Congressman Ron Barber (also shot) and his family are near and dear to me. Had I known that Gabby was speaking that Saturday at a shopping center not far me, I probably would have been there with my then 10 year old daughter. My pain lives with me everyday and to make a difference I worked every weekend to get Mr. Barber elected. Now my volunteer time will go to NAMI and other mental health organizations. Thank you for this beautiful story and I wish you peace in your own heart as well as this entire nation and especially the residents of Newtown, Connecticut.

  18. Joseph B. Cassidy, III says:

    I echo your words, and believe the time for change is now. Those 26 lives did not deserve this; the children had their lives, their hopes, and dreams dashed from them. And for what, and what reason.
    I too was a resident of the nearby town of Monroe, of where the children will be attending class, I rememjber the great memories that I had there, and believe when I hear how supportive everyone is. I may have been very young at the time, but I know truth when I hear it.
    We need to take the action of making it a better life for our children. We can’t have another tragic event take place. We need to act now. There is no room for assult weapons in our society; no reason to even collect them
    Twenty-six lives deserved better then what they got, and now they are only alive the hearts of those who love and care for them the most. No future. Just a past, a past thaqt ended in a way that no one should ever face; a fate that none of them should have ever had to face. They all deserved much better.
    Now it is up to use to make a difference, and I believe that we will succeed. For we must succeed. I totally believe that something good will come from this tragidy, but we must make the difference now, or else those 26 lives that were once our children, and our teachers, and school adminastration will be in vain. We must not let that happen.
    God bless Newtown.

  19. Jami says:

    I’ll second Henry. Thank you. Thank you.

  20. Linda says:

    Factual, honest, touching and beautifully written. God Bless you and your town. There are many of us joining the discussion and praying for change. It is time. Let the children lead, they are pointing the way.

  21. Bonnie W. Speeg says:

    Your article is most eloquent on a most distressing topic.
    It appears that our ‘price of freedom’ now means the injuring, maiming and deaths of bystanders in theaters, malls, schools, burger joints and American Universities with assault weaponry; instead of volunteering to pay the price on foreign battlefields for the U.S. nation.
    Dressing robotically has been a part of my experience for several months.
    My children lost their father in a most unexpected and ugly way. I can’t tap into lovely celebratory times right now. The season is unpalatable. The carols are haunting and sound ‘off’. The colors are dim. Public Christmas trees provide a distant background in the movie-set I seem to be playing scenes in on a day to day basis.

    I too would have found myself on the basement floor (and actually, I have in a few shocks I’ve sustained in my recent life) before trying to write about such horror involving children in Newtown from your very personal perspective.

    How absurd the question: Is this our choice…guns or children?
    As a parent of grown children, I cannot reconcile the two as partners in a mutual setting.
    Your writing sparks flames under people who cling to the ‘good life including bearing firearms’ and they aim to protect it no matter what; they own an idealistic and romantic notion that 21st century weaponry is to their reality 18th century muzzle-loading rifles.

    Assuredly, I hadn’t heard of Newtown, CT before last week. Avoiding the media as I have, my vivid imagination and sensibilities tell me how horrific it all was. My adult daughter actually told me the news. I had no images, no reporters, no TV on, just my child exclaiming the unbelievable hell.
    I grabbed my face in my hands just listening to the briefest details; number of young children, the conditions surrounding it all.
    I couldn’t let go of this shocking information for several minutes, just made a despairing plea to the heavens to help us all.

    As no one else can, you’ve connected those of us reading your piece to your hometown of Newtown and the school, and the desks, and the parking lot. Your tethered experience in this place and the people speaks volumes above a news reporter. You proved to be the elastic sinew that wraps around the more inflexible parts of our collective human emotional body. You’ve managed to give more to tender the gruesome incident in Newtown than you can see right now, for certain. With no fear you’ve conveyed your weaknesses and strengths at a time it’s most necessary.
    I would consider it a gift for the future….your child being the most immediate benefactor, when she’s old enough to read her father’s words and understand what humankind can offer to an all but impossibly broken situation.

  22. Jan Filios says:

    Sean, your words are powerful. Thank-you. I grew up in Connecticut, and summered near Old Lyme. I miss those white spired churches that you see in almost every small town and the closely kept simplicity. I would will support Newtown United for the long run and any congressional bill that bans these guns. Jan Filios

  23. Eli Horford says:

    A wonderfully written article but the writer is either misinformed or ill advised with respect to the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. I admit that I am a life member of the National Rifle Association but I will say that I am open to discussion on the topic of gun control. In my opinion, firearms laws are just one spoke in the proverbial wheel and the wheel has many spokes. Spokes like violent video games that contain strategies to kill police officers and our military, violent movies in general and spokes like the “thug” and “gangsta” cultures that have a disastrous impact on young people in America. Another Constitutional amendment will come into play if and when these issues are debated – the First Amendment. And, finally, we as a nation have to get serious about mental illness. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone touched by the Newtown tragedy. My hope is that the new Biden commission will be open minded, fair and balanced in order to come up with real meaningful solutions to a huge and complex set of issues. EH

  24. Donna DeLuca says:

    Quintessential Newtown. You have captured it’s spirit and my broken heart. Thanks for your cathartic essay. I’m here in the midst of the madness and try, in my small way, to make a positive difference.

  25. stina says:

    WOW!!!! Very eloquent and poignant. I applaud the voice you have given to victims and survivors of this horrible tragedy.

  26. Pingback: Going Home to Newtown — The Good Men Project

  27. leti says:

    One of the best pieces I have seen on this nightmare and the loss that we all feel. Thank you for sharing and may our country finally get serious about gun control and mental health.

  28. It’s comforting to have others who understand how it feels to intimately know Newtown and to cherish the memories of growing up there. I struggled to write about it on my blog, what to write, IF to write, and how to start.

    I ultimately wrote a short piece to acknowledge that this is so close to my heart, but your post is so beautifully written, so much how I’m feeling – thank you for putting it into words. Give Newtown my love.

  29. Doug Berendsohn says:

    Hello buddy – thanks for a such a sincere insight into the whole, awful disaster. I hope that some of us “Townies” can make a lasting, positive impact long after the TV crews have moved-on. Have a nice Christmas! Doug B.

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  31. Katherine Willis Pershey says:

    This is an extraordinary essay. Thank you.

    I have never heard of Newtown before last week, but I will do everything in my power to help it become shorthand for when we finally started to dismantle the gun culture and put a stop to this spate of senseless violence. I was a passive, apolitical gun control supporter last week. Now I will not give up until we achieve common sense gun regulations.

    I continue to pray for everyone who was affected by this horror.

  32. Deborah Risk Tobin says:

    This is without exception the most potent and meaningful piece I have seen about Newtown. Thank you for stripping the event of melodrama, and in the most direct and subtle way, revealing the power of the underlying emotional/political reality.

  33. Sean Beaudoin says:

    Hope everyone who left a comment can see this. I initially planned to respond to each message, but I have literally had a thousand wonderful and supportive emails and messages over the last week and it’s impossible to respond to them all. It is very gratifying that the community of parents and concerned citizens across America have shown such support to the families of Sandy Hook Elementary, and delivered amazingly thoughtful responses to the many emotionally and politically challenging things that have been written of late. I am very glad that this piece has resonated with you all and hope that we can continue the essential dialog that needs to take place across the country, for as long as it takes, until gun violence is finally addressed.

    Thank you, and I wish everyone the best possible holiday.


  34. Wendy Forman says:

    Thank you very much for the exquisitely-written piece. I found the link for it on the Newtown United FB page. It has been said that the antidote to despair is action; for the many of us who felt helpless and vicariously traumatized by the murders in Newtown it is useful to take political action. Just because we stand up for stricter gun controls does not obviate a desire to demand better mental health services and to look into the effects of video violence on young brains. Of course the causes of mass shootings are complex and many and so we must work on all fronts to bring about change. I agree that although immediate action after such a tragic and traumatizing event might seem disrespectful to mourners, it has been essential in terms of creating and sustaining the momentum to finally wake the American people out of our torpor of denial. Thanks again for your fine writing, your personal story, and your sensitivity.

  35. Rich LaVoy says:

    Sean, A man of letters speaks so eloquently for us all. I posted a comment on Newtown United asking that Newtown bear the imposition of the media for as long as they can bear. At this moment Newtown is the mirror for the soul of America.
    Do not let us avert our eyes from the consequences of our inaction. Let us see and feel what you feel. Newtown may well be the turning point to save America as a free society.

  36. Sean,

    I have a big lump in my throat as I sit here reading this in my kitchen in Westport, CT. My husband is also from Newtown and, as I understand it, you guys used to be pretty close, once upon a time.

    This atrocity has devastated all of us. John and I have spent the last week feeling stunned and helpless and heartbroken. Putting our two six-year-olds on the bus every morning this week–watching them wave and press their little faces against the glass so they could catch one last glimpse as the bus pulled away–was impossibly hard.

    The arbitrariness of this tragedy somehow makes it that much more nightmarish. My six-year-old named Olivia is sitting on the couch right now, excited to go see The Nutcracker this afternoon. The six-year-old Olivia who attended Sandy Hook Elementary…I can’t even write it. But I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since I read little Olivia Engel’s name last week.

    And the worst part is that, devastated as we are, we can’t even begin to understand the weight of the grief and fear those several degrees closer to this horror must be feeling.

    I hope your pilgrimage to Newtown this Christmas is able to bring a little light and a little healing to your hometown. We are sending love in the form of handmade snowflakes, donations and a pilgrimage of our own, which we made last Sunday.

    If there’s anything your family–or any of the families that you know in Newtown–need, anything that we can actually provide, please don’t hesitate to ask. We would do anything to bring a little comfort to all those suffering so deeply.

    With love and hope,

    Meaghan Morelli-Chiappetta

  37. dyan says:

    Here in Australia it took the massacre at Tasmania’s historic penal settlement site to bring about gun law change. It can be done. i hope and pray the United States has the courage to do it too.

    • Christa says:

      Thank you Sean for your thoughtful article. You have written exactly what I am thinking and feeling. I live in Australia and I just want to send my love to all those families and individuals in Newtown who were affected. I have cried daily over this heartbreak. I too can’t get the image out of my head.

      As Dyan said after Port Arthur, Tasmania, positive change of gun laws was implemented. I believe America is going to change it’s gun laws as a result of this, and improve mental health access.


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  39. Jane Simmons says:

    Gun control statists at their worst.

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