Never Forget Newtown

I’ve spent the majority of my life living in western Connecticut. I’ve grown up seeing tragedies happen at Columbine, Lancaster County, Tucson, Virginia Tech, Aurora, and even this week in Oregon. Every time something horrible would happen, I would fall back thinking to myself at least that would never happen here. All of this changed on December 14, 2012, when an evil that no one in this area remotely thought would ever occur, showed itself in the worst way possible. Twenty-six lives taken away from us too soon, twenty of them children who never even knew such evil even existed.

Newtown will not be remembered by me, as it will by so many others, as the place where the worst elementary school violence in history happened. I’ll remember it as the place where the town’s landmark is a proud, tall American flag pole, that now flies at half staff. Where the busiest place on a Saturday night in the summer is the family-run ice cream shop. A town that changes its high school mascot from Indians to Nighthawks out of respect to Native Americans. The old town hall is a movie theater where you can catch a show for just $2. Johnny Depp’s trip to the Blue Colony Diner was the biggest thing to happen to the town this millennium. Where they don’t get upset if you accidentally call them “Newton” instead Newtown. A place, where before Friday, the scariest thing that ever happened in the town was the presumably “haunted” Fairfield Hills complex. I hope you would remember it the same way. Unfortunately, you won’t.

Sandy HookI never thought I’d see memorials line the road filled with notes, flowers, stuffed animals, and candles. Where I played Thanksgiving football just three and half weeks ago turned into the media campout for press conferences with a line of satellite dishes. I constantly wonder if when I played there that the twenty children or more playing football on the opposite field had been involved. Especially if Jack Pinto, who was an avid Giants and football fan, that passed away in the shooting was playing that morning. It’s surreal to see Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, Scott Pelley, Diane Sawyer, and other numerous media members all standing with places I’ve visited plentiful times in the background.

There is one thing I know. Newtown will persevere. I saw it today, when I visited Sandy Hook, with everyone coming together. Strangers holding hands in prayer. Hugs being exchanged in grief and sorrow. Makeshift memorials are sprouting up in more places than you could count. The community will continue to be there for each other through the grieving process and beyond. They will remember Charlotte, Daniel, Rachel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Dawn, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Anne Marie, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Lauren, Mary, Victoria, Benjamin, and Alison forever in their hearts and minds. I’d expect nothing less from Newtown.

If you have the means, I respectfully ask that you donate to help the Newtown community in their time of need. There are numerous ways to help and all can be found here. Please keep the victims families, friends, and Newtown in your thoughts and prayers. Trust me, it’s helping.

-Bryan Mapes

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