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Suzy Hayman DeYoung Headshot

Newtown United

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It's difficult to write when you're shaking. Writing is what I love to do, however, so I sit here at my computer struggling to come up with what to say. You see, I live in Newtown, Conn. I moved here from New York City nine years ago with my husband and three children. We are rattled to our core here. We are also coming together in ways I never imagined possible.

When I moved here, I never imagined I would find friends like the people I have found in this community. I had a core group of friends from childhood and we remained close. I was grateful. They were enough -- or so I thought. Moving here in my 40's, I assumed I'd make a number of acquaintances and casual friendships through my kids, but that my childhood friends would remain my central rock. I was wrong. In my conversations with other friends in other towns I'm discovering we are unique. There is something special here, something that -- until recently -- I thought only I noticed. Now the world is seeing it.

A number of friends are saying that they never thought a school shooting could happen in Newtown. I never felt that way. Maybe it's my city girl cynicism, or maybe it's because when my own son almost lost his life in a bizarre and freak accident seven years ago, I was hit by the reality that "those people" to whom these things happen are, in reality, all of us. That something of this magnitude, however, could happen here or anywhere, well, that is not something I have fully processed yet.

I know a family who lost a son in the shooting. Not well; just socially. I remember a conversation with the mom at a happy event a few months ago in which we discussed how different our siblings were from each other. We marveled at these differences, laughing at how two children from the same family could be so dissimilar in so many fascinating ways. I remember her husband's dry wit and love of theatre -- he, too, was a native New Yorker.

My dear friend Abby is a teacher at Sandy Hook. Abby lived. Abby corralled kids who were out in the hallway into her classroom in an effort to protect them. I saw Abby on TV during Obama's speech at our high school. She looked exhausted and distraught.

A friend, needing to do something, started a grassroots group on Sunday called Newtown United. We have come together to ensure that our town becomes known for more than just this tragedy. We are diverse. We all bring different thoughts to the table. It's not just about guns. It's about emotional well-being, parenting, compassion, violence, empathy and perhaps most important, about learning to see things differently, because without a fundamental shift in perception on all these topics, little will change.

For me, Obama hit the nail on the head when he said we are failing to protect our children. However, I take it a step further. I feel we are failing to protect our parents, for if we are truly to "protect" our children in every sense of the word, we need to protect, educate, embrace and respect their parents.

So, I will deal with the shaking and remain at my computer, trying to figure out what to say, what to do to, how to help.