To the Editor:
Some people may say that the term “hero” is being used today too much and in too many different types of situations. I am here to tell you that this is certainly not the case with the residents of Newtown, CT.
My name is August Hoffman and I teach community psychology at Metropolitan State University, which is located in St. Paul, MN. Last weekend (October 4-6), 2013, my students and I visited your town and planted a variety of 30 fruit trees to honor the memories of the victims from 12/14/12. I was accompanied by Dr Barbara Curchack who is a professor of psychology at Inver Hills Community College. Our students (8) entered your community on Friday (October 4, 2013) never once feeling as though we were an “outsider.”
When people found out the nature and purpose of our visit, people opened up their homes and their hearts to us. During our visit we planted (with community members) a variety of fruit trees (apples, figs, peaches, and cherry trees) in an effort to honor those victims from last year’s 12/14/12 tragedy. Planting trees has traditionally remained an important way to help people come together and celebrate life.
Many thanks to: Director of Parks and Recreation Amy Mangold who greeted everyone and helped to organize the event on Saturday; Harvey Pessin, director of the Newtown Victory Garden. Harvey and his wife, Brit, helped prepare a delicious meal for all of us in his home; Mr Cem Akin and Rico Montenegro of The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation donated all of the fruit trees and provided planting instructions; Newtown Board of Selectman Mr James O. Gaston who attended the tree planting ceremony and thanked all of us in attending the ceremony.
That evening we attended Armando’s Italian restaurant and the owners Armando and Mae Roma created an environment that made us feel very much at home. We met Mr Bob Gleason, his wife, Pamela, and his mother having dinner on the outside patio with us. We soon started chatting with Bob and his family, and Bob told me that the people of Newtown, CT are a very resilient and positive group of individuals. He also told me that his personal belief is that “99 percent of the people are good in spirit and that we should focus on the strengths that we all share in this community.” Bob not only thanked us for the work we were doing, but at the end of the evening he insisted on paying for all ten members of our group’s dinner at Armando’s Italian Restaurant.
So . . . who are the real heroes of the Newtown, Connecticut community? The real heroes are the very people of Newtown, CT, the fiber of the community who showed all of us from Metropolitan State University and Inver Hills Community College what it means to be a strong and most gracious community.
Drs August John Hoffman and Barbara Curchack
St Paul, Minnesota October 8, 2013