Prior to an open press conference conducted by several elected Newtown officials and community leaders to discuss issues around the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy, those individuals sat down with The Newtown Bee for an exclusive video interview with the hope that it would be an opportunity for them to speak directly to residents, readers, and visitors to NewtownBee.com.
The 20-minute session December 3 included First Selectman Pat Llodra, along with Cody Foss of Newtown Youth Academy (NYA), Police Chief Michael Kehoe, Interim School Superintendent John Reed, and Newtown Congregational Church Senior Minister Matthew Crebbin, who also leads Newtown Interfaith Clergy Association.
Each official discussed what they plan to be doing on Saturday, December 14, and then the participants each delivered a message to the community pertinent to their own area of management or expertise.
Dr Reed said he will be supporting a series of resources that will be made available to district staff on 12/14.
“I think for a substantial part of the day, I will be in one of our schools where staff who want to be with colleagues will be able to come,” Dr Reed said. “I’m not sure what I’ll be doing during the later part of the day.”
Chief Kehoe said he will be supporting and assisting mutual aid officers in the field.
“I’ll probably be in the office coordinating that effort to the extent I can,” he said.
Mr Foss said his intent is to be in town and at NYA, but he had not yet firmed up plans for the day with family members.
Mrs Llodra said on 12/14, she plans to start the day by attending a mass at St Rose of Lima, where she is a parishioner.
“Then I will be very present and visible in the community, especially in Sandy Hook where I will be shopping at the Toy Tree, going to the deli for lunch and to the restaurants there for dinner,” she said. “It’s important for people to see we are enjoying Sandy Hook.”
Rev Crebbin said he will be leading a service of remembrance in the morning, and will be supporting the clergy organization as various faith-based communities will be holding services or just being open and available for those seeking a place for reflection and conversation.
He said leaders from Newtown’s churches and houses of worship will be looking to reach out, especially to those who are having difficulties during the period around the 12/14 anniversary.
“One of the things we are conscious of especially around the anniversary, because they are maybe concerned about media attention, that some folks will not seek out support. So the clergy are concerned about isolation among folks during a time when isolation is not helpful,” he said.
Mrs Llodra said she would like to see people do three things: spend time talking among family members about the importance of compassion; do an act of kindness in the name of those who lost their lives on 12/14; and reflect on the way individuals can make the world and their community a better place.
Dr Reed said he always reinforces that the issues, joys, and pain people in his school community are feeling are normal. He also said that he drew much inspiration from his colleagues who were on hand during the events of 12/14.
“I feel sometimes they have given more to me than I have given to them in a helping capacity,” Dr Reed said.
Chief Kehoe said he is seeing a lot of resiliency in the community, and his own agency is on a path to healing, while Mr Foss, the parent of two Sandy Hook students, said that he was also inspired by members of the community.
“I think there has been tremendous sadness and tremendous anger,” he said. “But I think a lot of us are at a place now where we are inspired by the families, we’re inspired by each other. We’re getting to the point where there’s a sense of pride to be from Newtown. There’s a sense of how this resiliency is forming who we are. There’s a sense of pride and that we’re all in this pulling together.”
Mrs Llodra also took the opportunity to reiterate a message she has been repeating for the media, curiosity seekers, and well-wishers who might be inclined to visit on or around 12/14.
“We really need that time to be alone and with each other,” she said. “So our request is please, give us some space and the opportunity to recover as a community. We need to know we have each other to rely on without the fear of being confronted with a camera or microphone.”