For many residents in the town in which 20 children, 6 teachers, the gunman and his mother were all victims of armed violence, the thing they viewed as a way to help them begin a process of resuming a semblance of normalcy was a return to school. That return was challenging for families PIX11 encountered, and at one of the half-dozen schools that reopened on Tuesday, there was an ugly reminder of the danger that thrust this town into a glare of infamy it had never wanted.
One of the schools that reopened was Middle Gate Elementary, on the south side of Newtown, roughly five miles from Sandy Hook, where Adam Lanza carried out his massacre. Even though Middle Gate is a 35 year-old structure, it has an historic little red schoolhouse on its grounds in front of the school. Parents dropping of their children there showed that doing so was not easy for them.
“My son is six, and he is familiar with four of the twenty kids who were killed,” said Jackie Meriano, who was driving off school grounds after having left her son at school. She told PIX11 News that the return to school was a difficult but necessary process.
“Newtown shouldn’t be remembered for this tragedy,” she said, “but instead should be remembered for the triumph of how we overcame it. I’m not going to live in fear.”
She said that telling the story of the town’s attempts to recover from its tragic loss was important, and she thanked PIX11 News for doing so. However, not every Newtowner was so grateful.
“Get off the property,” one Middle Gate Elementary schooler’s father told a PIX11 news crew. When he was informed that PIX11 was not trespassing, and as a policy never trespasses on school property, his response was, “I know.”
Still, his reaction underscores how much the town of 28,000 is chafing under the worldwide media spotlight in the wake of the tragedy that affected it so strongly.
Meanwhile, at the only other Newtown elementary school set to open on Tuesday, an unfeeling act of cowardice left the facility open only to police. Somebody called in a threat to the Head O’Meadow School, causing administrators there to send buses full of children and families in their cars back home when they had arrived for drop off. The school is expected to be open as usual on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Sandy Hook Elementary is expected to remain a crime scene for about three more months. After that time, it’s still not clear what will become of the eastern Newtown facility.
Its 670 surviving students will attend school in the neighboring town of Monroe. A recently closed middle school there is being refitted for Sandy Hook’s kindergarten through fourth grade population. It is not yet determined when Sandy Hook’s students will be asked to return to school.