This is an article from Frank Miller, in Talbot County. Frank is a retired school psychologist, activist and supporter of John LaFerla for Congress:
Last December after hearing about the tragic loss of life at Sandy Hook Elementary, my wife Coletta decided we had to do something to show support. She came up with the idea to send a Christmas wreath with 26 angels. We purchased 20 small Serenity Angels and 6 larger ones, and the staff at her elementary school, in Ridgely, Maryland, tied them all on the wreath with white and green ribbons, and signed a card with the wording, “From one elementary school to another.” I made a cardboard box and sent it off to Newtown.
Fearing it might end up in a snow bank, somewhere, I sent it to the Newtown General Store, in the heart of town, a meeting place for kids and adults with colorful candy in clear glass jars, wood floors and a delicatessen as the main draw. The owner called Coletta when it arrived – Brian Williams of NBC News was there when it did we later found out – and displayed it in the store during the holidays. When one of the teachers from Sandy Hook stopped by and saw it, she asked if she could take it to their new building, and that is where it ended up.
For my part, I wanted to organize a project to memorialize the children and their brave teachers. As a graduate of Virginia Tech, suffering a tragedy themselves, I reached out to the editor who put together their memorial issues for the students and faculty who died. He suggested for me to find out what Newtown wanted first, and I later contacted the person in charge of gathering and organizing the tens of thousands of items that arrived in Newtown, in the wake of the tragedy. She was the Human Resources Administrator for Newtown, and despite being buried under an avalanche of cards and letters and paintings and sculptures and quilts and stuffed animals, she was kind enough to return my calls and emails.
On Friday, April 12, my wife and I drove to Newtown to meet with these two wonderful people. We spent over an hour with the HR Administrator in her office. When the mail arrived for the day, it was on a cart, in overflowing plastic USPS boxes. “There’s today’s mail,” she pointed. When we were genuinely surprised, she said, “Follow me,” and took us into the basement of the building, to a secure area filled with cartons of mail, paintings of the children, handmade quilts with their faces, and many other items people had sent to the families of the children. An incredible outpouring of love and support. She allowed us to take photos under the promise not to post them, since the families had not yet seen the offerings. For some it was still too close, too painful.
When we returned upstairs, she picked up her phone and called an associate who was in the process of documenting and cataloging every piece of mail, every piece of artwork, every item sent to Newtown in support of the families. She then directed us to a storefront, across town, where the work was being done, and we headed over there, in awe of the enormity of the project, but even more impressed with the love and dedication of this young woman and her staff of volunteers. Look up “Healing Through the Arts Newtown” (http://www.healingnewtown.org/) to get a small idea of what this work entails.
It was only noon, so we next headed over to the General Store, where we met with the owner and spent the next three hours talking about the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the days that followed, and the months of healing that are now in play. He opened his arms to us, and we felt like we were old friends, coming together again.
What struck us the most, was the kindness and trust everyone showed us, and the prevailing attitude in Newtown that because this act was so horrific, they were determined to make every effort to make sure that everything that followed was driven by love and support for the families, for the children and teachers who died that day, and for anyone else who cried for them and their tremendous loss.