Given that I tend to enjoy skiing apart from my more advanced family and friends, I spent a fair amount of time over our recent vacation riding chair lifts and grabbing lunch alongside strangers. Consequently, I was asked numerous times where I lived. The following are the initial replies I received after answering the question:
• "I'm so sorry." (Three times)
• "Oh my God!!" (Once)
• "Oh no." (Twice)
You see, I live in Newtown, CT. That was all that needed to be said.
On the last of our five days, a friend and fellow Newtowner traveling with us overheard me respond to an affable fellow in the lodge with a different answer. This time, I simply replied that I was from Connecticut.
By that point in the trip, I had had enough of the inevitable comments and follow-up questions. "Did you know anyone? "What is it like there now?" "This must be so hard."
A group of us had come to Vermont to "breathe" for a few days and a number of "head clearing" lift rides and calming cups of hot chocolate had already been tainted by difficult conversation with inquiring strangers.
Later, at the house we were sharing, my friend remarked that he had mixed feelings when he heard me omit the name of our town. While understanding my choice at the moment, he feared our becoming timid over this atrocity. While not wanting to wear it as a badge, he nonetheless wished to embrace our special town regardless of the resulting reactions.
He's right, of course; for many reasons but primarily for this:
Since December 14th, something extraordinary, something distinctive, something long lasting has begun to emerge from this heartbreak. While we Newtowners may always be well-known for this event, I suspect we will also come to be recognized as the months and years progress, for something much more. It's in the air. People are banding together with open minds and open hearts. They are generating, ideas, expressing conviction and turning feelings into action.
Maybe the dialogue on the slopes, in the lodges, all over the country will someday go something like this:
"Where are you from?"
"Cool. It's pretty impressive what was accomplished after that shooting. Your town is an inspiration."