12/16/2012 09:02 pm ET Updated Feb 15, 2013

The Real Newtown, Connecticut

Newtown, Connecticut has been my home for most of my adult life -- almost 20 years. My husband and I chose to raise our children in this picturesque, New England town because of its strong sense of history and community, and its intelligent, accomplished, concerned residents who possess a strong sense of pride in the town. "It's nicer in Newtown" is our town motto, and the oversized flagpole that waves from the center of Main Street reminds us of our collective identity as we drive past it on our way to work, to stop by the historic C.H. Booth Library, or to pick up a sandwich at the General Store. We love our local farms and the picturesque landscape, the beautiful old barns and stone walls that are commonplace here. It is a beautiful place to live.

We have our problems too, of course. Like many communities, we bicker amongst ourselves (especially through "The Letter Hive" in our town's newspaper, The Newtown Bee) over land development, school budgets and how we interpret national politics. There have been moments when I felt disheartened reading angry letters in the paper from our citizens. But I remind myself that the writers' passion derives from a deep and unique level of caring about what goes on in our town and our schools. There is a level of commitment that residents regularly evidence by their volunteer work and attendance at town and school meetings, and it continues to make me proud to be a Newtowner.

All three of my children formerly attended Sandy Hook Elementary School, and were fortunate to do so. They spent their tender years nurtured and protected by dedicated professionals in a school that went the extra mile for its students. Some of my children's teachers became like friends to me, sharing in my love and concern for my children. The office staff is welcoming and dedicated to their jobs. The principal's secretary knows the names of just about every student at Sandy Hook, and most of their parents and siblings too.

The unfathomable tragedy that has stricken our town will forever be associated with us now. The grief and pain that the shooter inflicted will resonate and remain with us always. But Newtown and the families of Sandy Hook School will draw on our tremendous compassion and sense of community to survive the depths of this tragedy together. We know that the horrifying actions of one disturbed man do not define our town.

Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of Sandy Hook School, was the most buoyant and genuinely caring administrator I ever came across, as I'm sure many parents would agree. On Friday, December 14, she and the many brave teachers and staff at Sandy Hook School exemplified our school and town spirit. They acted on their instincts to comfort the children; to protect them from harm and from witnessing the horror that unfolded, and to save their lives. Some of them risked and lost their own lives in the process.

Today, many of our town's families must grieve their precious children. Others must go on without their loved ones who worked and died at Sandy Hook. We grieve along with all of them, as does the entire nation. I hope that others can take small comfort, as I do, that Dawn Hochsprung, Mary Sherlach Lauren Rousseau, Victoria Soto, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy are still with their students, carrying on the "spirit" of Newtown, with all of its love and compassion, into the next realm. On this sad day, as throughout their years of service, they showed the country what it means to be from Newtown.