“Sandy Hook” was written in for June 14 in the daily planners of countless news editors and producers: a six-month reminder. Time for reflection. Time to take stock. Time to raise the profile of Newtown again. But here in Newtown, people wonder what it would be like to have to be reminded of the tragic events of that December day — to have to pencil something in on a calendar as if the date could escape our memory for a day, or even for an hour.
There is a continuity of experience in this town from that December day that rises above the accumulating forgetfulness in a world of distractions. Innumerable connections made and sealed person to person, family to family, even stranger to stranger have built a bridge, leading the community to this date and to every date on every calendar page we can now imagine for our future. All of it is experience borne of that day; all of it impelled by compassion and hope; all of it embodied in the numeric shorthand we have adopted: 12/14.
It is tempting to equate the passage of time with progress or a heightened confidence in the future, especially when we spend that time working with dedication and sincerity to make things better. But we saw this week, even as Newtown projected its best intentions on the future, just how unforeseeable that future can be. A phone call threatening the staff and students at Hawley Elementary School shook that confidence and undermined that sense of progress for a few long hours Monday afternoon.
However, in reflecting on that scare after all the children were safely home, it was clear that the community’s responses were quick and effective, from the coordinated instantaneous response of the police department to the threat assessment and measured implementation of lockdown procedures by school officials. Equally important was the care taken by Acting Superintendent John Reed to deliver accurate, and not just timely, information to the community. Even the e-mail he sent to parents that evening, which reviewed the procedures employed in responding to the threat, reflected a new understanding in the wake of 12/14 that the most serious challenges for Newtown are shared challenges, requiring official transparency and community engagement. In the end, it was an experience that restored both confidence and a sense of progress to the town.
So as June 14 passes on to the 14th days of months leading to December and beyond, we should add to the memory that never will be forgotten a remembrance that we are in this together, through every surge and setback, on that bridge of experience arcing into the future from 12/14. It is our surest path to progress.