At Friday's second community meeting at Newtown High School, residents spoke frankly and openly about the fate of the Sandy Hook Elementary School building. Before comments from U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty and Q&A with First Selectman Pat Llodra, residents had another chance to voice their opinions and share their emotions after the Dec. 14 shooting, including the responses below.
I've lived in Sandy Hook my whole life, and I've never been more proud of this town than I am right now.
Sandy Hook Elementary School should be taken down and a memorial should be built in its place. If we build a new school or renovate an existing building, every Sandy Hook child and parent will be in the same position. If we keep the school up, our community will be separated into two groups -- those who can go back and those with children who simply can't. What choice do we give those families who can't go back? To leave the Sandy Hook community? To move altogether? How can we possibly treat them like that? After everything that Sandy Hook now stands for, how can we treat those who are deeply affected and traumatized like that?
Taking the school down would not be burying the memories or pretending like nothing happened. Something did happen, and that ground is sacred now. It is incredibly disrespectful to keep the school up and running as if nothing happened. I went to Sandy Hook. Taking the school down to build a memorial does not mean those memories go away, and it does not prevent future generations from having good memories. And it certainly does not mean that troubled man is now taking our school too. It means that those who did not make it out of that building will be remembered and honored. The only way that man can remain a part of our future is if we allow it.
-- Jackie Hornack
I grew up in Newtown and attended Head o' Meadow. The memories I still have are of loving teachers and the friends I made, not the actual walls themselves. We need to remember the spirit of Sandy Hook starts with the staff and the atmosphere they created, and the children and how they thrived in that atmosphere.
Our staff is amazing and has been incredible through all of this, putting our children's needs above their own, taking time out of their well-deserved breaks to set up classrooms so our children can get back to normal. I'd like to know what the teachers want. They're the ones who will remain in the school, hopefully many years after our children. I would hate to lose even one of our heroes because they didn't feel comfortable with their surroundings. The spirit they bring will be in whatever four walls our children attend school in. I'm not belittling any child's wish to go back to school, but we have to consider what that day looks like when they re-cross that threshold.
-- Adele Unger, mother of Sandy Hook student
Walls do not make the school. The people and the staff make the school. We need to stay together, and our teachers are the ones that are going to have to stay there ... They need to decide, can they go to work every day there? If they can, so be it. All the power to them. But if they can't, it's their decision ... Can those teachers go to work every day and drive down that driveway? That's the question. And it's not for us to answer. It's for the staff to answer, and the students who will continue to come to Sandy Hook for years and years and years from now.
-- Savina, mother of Sandy Hook student
I've been here in Newtown for about 25 years. My kids have gone through the school system. I've coached baseball at Sandy Hook for 10 or 15 years with the kids. In my eyes, they can never go back to that building. There's just too much tragedy. It would bring back too many memories. But there's other ways we could work.
I think we have to keep the school in Sandy Hook. We have to bring it back to that location. There's so many pieces of property there. I'm a developer and builder -- I look at things. You have Treadwell Park, you have all the woods between Treadwell Park and the school... You have the whole hillside back to the Villa restaurant. There's a very large piece of property there. It would be very easy to build another school at that location with a whole different design. Put the school where the ball fields are; put the ball fields were the school is.
But we have to knock that school down. There's no way we can send children there -- ten years from now, they're going to be reminded what happened in that building. We don't want that for our kids who aren't even born yet, knowing they're going to be put into that position just because of where they're living.
All the grants and state programs that are going on in our favor right now give us the opportunity to relocate that school and turn it into a palace. So the new kids coming in and the kids returning have something brand new -- something special, in a new location. Something to remember, something to be proud of.
The entire nation is watching what we do. We can't afford not to put our best show on.
-- Mike Dauber
The children at Sandy Hook, while they may not be adults, have a voice that deserves to be heard. Same for the teachers, staff and administrators at Sandy Hook. While I have ideas, I will support any idea they feel is best.
My help going forward comes from my daughter. While Rachel has been hesitant to discuss that day, she's made one thing clear: she misses her school. She loved her school. She wants to go back. She has many fine memories at Sandy Hook, from her first day in kindergarten getting off that big yellow bus -- even though she only rode 200 yards -- to the One School One Read night, when I fondly remember Principal Hochsprung during the book fair when she dressed up as the Book Fairy.
I had found this a common reaction from many of her friends. One friend is struggling to deal with the event has made it clear he wants to go back to his school. Another friend, who's in fourth grade, also wants to return and is sad that his fourth grade graduation ceremony won't be held at Sandy Hook. For these kids, Sandy Hook is home and a special place.
-- Daniel Krause, father of Sandy Hook student
I have two young daughters, aged two and four, and the oldest is scheduled to start kindergarten in the fall. I don't ever plan on sending her into that building. I'm kind of surprised it's even up for discussion. Whatever we choose to do as a community, I think that building needs to be razed and a memorial built.
I was actually in lower Manhattan in 9/11, and this is worse. I love what they did for a memorial -- they actually built in the footprint of the building a reflecting pool memorial, so no feet ever tread on that sacred ground again. That's kind of the idea I'd like to see put in place here.
-- Adam Foley, Sandy Hook resident
When I went to the meeting on Sunday, I really thought I wanted to remodel that school because it has such a place in my heart. I asked my son that night if he'd like to go back, and he said, 'Yes, Mommy.'
But even after my son told me he wanted to go back to that school, I think of the teachers. I think of what those teachers have been through. And I could not put one of those teachers through that again. Those teachers are amazing. They've got a Sandy Hook newsletter -- the SHS Connection -- and the new principal had [a column], and underneath that was an old December submission from Dawn Hochsprung. And I read that and thought, 'That is the spirit of Sandy Hook, right there.' Not in the walls, from Heaven. So we can carry that on through in the next school that we build.
Since December 14, I haven't driven through Sandy Hook on the way to pick up my son. I think that's a crucial part, too. We can drive through our town. We can drive down that road, and Treadwell Park, and that's our community. I feel if we build another school, it might not be in that location, but it should be in Sandy Hook.
-- Nasa Waller, mother of Sandy Hook student