A Note from Jamie: Today marks 10 years since the devastating tragedy so near to our home. My son Jonathan, now 18, asked if I would repost this tribute to our beloved town, originally shared on Dec 17, 2012. I also wrote a new post honoring our town today – click here to read.
I never intended to write about my current location here, or in any online space. I crave privacy and am tiger-mother fierce about protecting that of my kids. But when you see the town in which you live and love plastered across national and international news, the time has come to open up.
I make my home in Newtown, Connecticut–scene of last week’s 2nd deadliest school shooting in US history. If we had not chosen to homeschool, all three of my babes would have walked through the doors of Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday morning.
Who knows if all three would have come home again.
This tragedy hits close, shockingly close, to our home. Within walking distance families currently nurse a private grief that I find unimaginable.
What disturbs me, though, is that most of you are hearing about Newtown for the first time. Please know that there is another side than the sheer horror of what you’ve seen.
There’s the truth–what life is really like here. And though we’ve only lived in this town for a year and a half, this place will be part of our family’s heart, and history, forever.
This is Newtown as I know it:
I fell in love with this small town over two years ago. My kids attended a week-long summer camp here. After dropping them off I would wander–finding a place to write or take a walk–until time to pick them up again. Driving these country roads birthed a new dream for my family–a different type of life that would include fields and farms, refuge and freedom.
A safe place for my children to love, learn, and grow.
It has been that–and much more. You could say that Newtown was the answer to our prayers.
A stereotype holds that New Englanders keep their distance, but this community welcomed us warmly.
After Hurricane Sandy, when we lost power for four days, neighbors on both sides called and visited–inviting us to shower at their house, sleep on their floors, and borrow their camping stoves.
My children roam freely and play loudly for hours everyday outside our house. Once I noticed Elijah laying on the grass for several minutes, gazing at the sky.
“Watching hawks,” he said, when asked what captured his attention. I’ll always remember that moment. It struck me as exactly what a child should have the time and space for.
And it happened here. Newtown–a remarkable place to raise kids.
Though not exactly your typical family, I have never encountered even one rude look, glance, or comment about our uniqueness and diversity.
When checking out dozens of books recently, the librarian looked up at me with a warm smile and kindly said, “You must homeschool.” She went on to tell me of her positive experiences with other homeschooling families in the area.
Once my kids ran out to eagerly greet the oil man who had arrived to fill our tank. I walked out also, and he spoke up.
“Your son said you homeschool?”
As I answered yes, I wondered what would come next. But instead of questioning the validity of our educational choice, he opened up in my front yard about the learning struggles of his son. Turns out he and his wife had wondered about homeschooling themselves. He left that day with one of my cards for this blog, and an invitation to email me with any questions.
Our experience has shown us that Newtowners live and work with passion. I’ve been genuinely surprised to find that almost anyone hired to come to our house–from exterminators, to chimney sweeps, to tree choppers–exudes an excitement for their chosen line of work. My kids have come away thinking that “loving your job” is just what folks do.
Like I said, there’s something special here. A spark. Please remember that as you watch footage of terrified children running from classrooms and of lives irrevocably changed. That spark may be dim with sorrow, but it has not been extinguished in this courageous community.
Continue to send your prayers this direction. Not for us, who still have the privilege of tucking our little ones in tonight–but for those down the street and around the corner with empty beds and shattered hearts.
As for me, I will wake up tomorrow morning, look out the window at the field in the back, then do what I always do–thank God for sending us here. I will change my mind’s channel when images of horror and violence play on its screen, and replace it with images of what I know to be true about this beautiful community.
Treasured and cherished safely in my memory remains forever Newtown…as I know it.
Now you know it, too.
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.” ~ C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
Thank you for your kind words, thoughts, and prayers.