The town of Newtown, Conn, voted to accept $50 Million to build a new elementary school, moving forward in the aftermath of Sandy Hook massacre. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the new school, with thousands voting yes and only a few hundred voting no. The projected is scheduled for completion in between 2015 and 2016. The new school will be built exactly where the old school stood. The decision is both an emotional and practical one. It is one community’s response to a brutal tragedy. Simultaneously, school children in the Newtown area currently attending class in the Monroe area and are, essentially, educational nomads, with no functioning elementary school to call their own.
It hasn’t even been a year since the massacre took place. On December 14, 2012 a mentally ill man, Adam Lanza, killed twenty-six people in the original Sandy Hook Elementary. The victims included twenty children and six adults. Of the children, a mix of boys and girls, all were first graders. The oldest adult victim was 56. In addition, all the adult victims were female. Prior to the incident Adam killed Nancy Lanza, his mother. After the massacre Adam committed suicide. Lanza’s family had roots in the community. He grew up in the town. His uncle, James Champion, had been a police officer in the New Hampshire area.
At the time of the shooting, over 450 children were enrolled in Newtown, Conn. elementary school. Early reports indicated that Lanza was able to slip into the school without resistance. This was later contradicted in the The New York Times. Lanza “shot his way in, defeating a security system requiring visitors to be buzzed in.”
In the wake of the shooting, the process of moving forward began. In June 2012 a 28 person committee voted to demolish the original Sandy Hook Elementary. Once this measure passed, a referendum was presented to the community at large. This is the referendum that the community recently approved. Although most residence appear supportive, there have been a few critics who questioned the use of tax dollars to demolish the old school and replace it with a new one. These critics though, are underestimating the psychological damage wrought by the disaster. For those that support the measure, the price to rebuild would be forever infinitesimal compared to the psychological anguish of sending their children to school at the site of one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history. Critics are also neglecting the harm done to the children and teachers, the survivors themselves, in forcing them to relive their trauma by revisiting the old school over and over again.
The Sandy Hook massacre is also responsible for rekindling the gun control debate in America. As parents, teachers, educators, law enforcement, and politicians are force to wrestle with very difficult questions. Would armed teachers be an appropriate security measure? Would increased gun control succeed in restricting access to potential mass murderers? Would such measures violate 2nd Amendment rights?
Shortly after the incident, Robbie Parker, father of 6 year old victim Emilie, stated “as we move on from what happened here, what happened to so many people, let us not let it turn into something that defines us.” This is key to understanding an articulate, sober response to tragedy. The point of building a new school isn’t to run away from the past. It’s to ensure that the survivors don’t dwell in the past, living their lives in the present.
Written By David Arroyo