Remembering The Heart Of Newtown, Conn.


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In the national news, we have been told that the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut is tearing apart a small, close-knit community.

On the contrary, the people of Newtown, Connecticut are members of a real, true community. Of all the pictures and footage that we saw, there was not one hint of a community being broken.

The people of this idealistic town are now and have always been one solid community, a family taking care of each other. About now you’re probably thinking to yourself, what makes this one think she knows how Newtown, Connecticut has “always been”? And now you’re probably thinking “I guess she’s going to tell us”.

My family moved to Newtown in 1969, the year of the Moon landing and Woodstock. This strange Irish family moved in from a faraway land called Indiana. We all had a strange midwestern accent and called things by the wrong name, like pop for soda and suckers for lollipops. We didn’t know what a grinder was or why it was on the menu at a sub shop.

I was 9 years old and started 4th grade at Hawley School, the elementary school for kids who lived east of the highway (84). The kids on the west went to Sandy Hook Elementary School. On the first day of school I met a pretty little girl my age on the bus. Debbie was one of my first friends in this new town and although she got off the bus before I did to go to St. Rose School, the next year we both went to Newtown Middle School.

I always considered Debbie my best friend, but our group of friends grew to include Shelly, Lorraine, Pam and Wendy (the twins) Carol Ann and Linda.

At the Halloween dance, I won for best costume when I went as the Flying Nun. As you who remember her might know, it was a great costume, but I did have to go through doorways sideways because of the hat. The prize was the then current LP from Sly and the Family Stone (“Dance to the Music”). Most importantly, Peter Smith, the son of the vice principal, asked me to dance, and he was a 7th grader!

In 1974, my father, who had been working in Stamford, took a job in Manhattan and our family moved to New Jersey because of the long commute (much longer in 1974 than it is today).

That was almost 40 years ago. Now you might be asking, “what is your point?”

There are a couple of points that I would like to make, first my story is the story of Newtown and it is the same today as it was then. Kids still live the life we all want for our kids. Next, after all these years, Lorraine, Shelly, Debbie and I are still friends and email back and forth, always talking about the next time we get together. Point? This community still embraces me after all this time away, not only in my heart, but in the heart of my friends.

This is not a community torn apart, this is a community whose bonds are strong and where love and family and friendship are not separate.

It’s hard work to care all the time, it’s exhausting. All we can do is try, and maybe while we’re praying for those in Connecticut, we can say a prayer for our own strength and for our neighbors our community.

Please remember in your prayers the family of Debbie’s co-worker Jimmy, who lost their little daughter Ana on Friday.

NOTE: Mary Jo Cuddihy wrote this for us the day after the shootings at Sandy Hook. We think it bears re-reading today on the anniversary of the massacre.

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