The organizers of The Great Newtown Reunion, which took place on July 27 on the grounds of the Fairfield Hills Campus, spent months putting together a first-ever event that had at its heart, paradoxically, tradition. Getting together — the object of every reunion — has become an automatic impulse for Newtowners since the tragic massacre at the Sandy Hook School on December 14. As we saw at the event Saturday, it has turned out to be an impulse strong enough to drive people back to town from the far corners of the country and beyond. They came to honor a tradition among the people of this community: live here your whole life, or move in then move on — either way, this place will always be your hometown.
On the face of it, The Great Newtown Reunion was a sprawling 12-hour party stretching on into one of the prettiest evenings of the summer. A big-top tent, an open and appetizing buffet, live music, dancing, and an array of activities gave the event the air of a festival, but the main attraction was none of the above. People came to see people — people from Newtown, to be precise.
As with most reunions, people sought out old friends and acquaintances to do some catching up on the little life stories that only they knew and only they would understand. But through it all ran that unremitting still-raw awareness of this community’s big life story, which all the world now knows, but which only Newtowners intimately understand. For so many of the roughly 1,000 people attending on Saturday, this great “getting together” was an opportunity to share, often wordlessly, that common understanding and draw reassurance from it.
When it came time for putting it into words, the task fell to the first selectman, Pat Llodra, as it so often does. She has gained a fluency in the language of community through these many trying months that few others have. And in the lexicon of Newtown’s traditions, she spoke of the goodness of the community, and of pride, and nurturing, and kindness. She told the crowd, “You are Newtown seeds planted near and far — you can help change the world.” And having heard what they came to hear, slowly they dispersed into the summer night.