No one left unscathed in tight-knit community
Published 4:24 pm, Saturday, December 15, 2012
NEWTOWN -- In this tight-knit community, there is virtually no one left unscathed by the worst school shooting in U.S. history that left 20 young children and six adults dead.
"It's just unbelievable... My neighbor's granddaughter was shot," Janet Woycik said before falling into tears.
Woycik, the director of the Cyrenius H. Booth Library on Main Street, said there's been nothing normal over the past 24 hours as she received visits from family members of victims to an EMT who responded to the incident rushing to return books to avoid late fees.
"People have been coming in tears. Yeah. I mean one of our programming people, who does programming for children here at the library, her son was shot," Woycik said.
As the community grapples with how to begin to understand and grieve, the library is also trying to become a place where children can find some peace and a chance to be themselves for a bit in an otherwise upside down world. They're planning on making the children's library an oasis to insulate them from the harsh realities of the outside world.
"We're thinking that parents can bring their children here, just as a diversion and to get them out of the house," Woycik said.
Children's Librarian Alana Bennison said she didn't want to publicize the details of what the library will set up for children this week.
"We need a place where children can come, and not be bothered by reporters and people seeking information. Just a neutral place they can come where they can feel normal in an abnormal situation," she said. She's currently thinking of calling in therapy dogs to sit with children as they read, and craft sessions -- anything to find the normalcy that has been so elusive to Newtown.
As a children's librarian, Bennison knows the names and faces of hundreds of kids in the town. And even without the list of victims, she already knew of a couple smiles that would be forever missed at the library. But while the situation becomes more real by the minute, she -- like so many others -- was still coping Saturday with a tragedy that would have been inconceivable a few days ago.
"My son is a Green Beret, and he just got back from Afghanistan, and everyday I'm worried about him. I would never dream I'd have to be worried at Sandy Hook," she said, grabbing a tissue to wipe the tears beginning to roll down her cheek.
"As a mother, when the phone rings, I would be worried that something had happened to him. That there would be a knock on the door in the middle of the night for me. And certainly these parents never expected that to happen when their children went to school yesterday," she said.
"I think the waiting is the awful part, and that's just the beginning. This is the beginning of trying to wrap your head around what happened," she said.
"This is life-changing for everyone that's here. Everyone who lives here or knows someone who lives here. It's like 9/11 in a lot of ways ... The things you do routinely, you don't think about routinely anymore because nothing is routine anymore. Everything's done with these new thoughts in the back of your head," she said.
And the safety that comes with a ZIP code in a small, well-to-do town in Fairfield County -- where parents work in New York City, fundraise for the PTA, and wave to people as they walk by -- is shattered.
"This is just the beginning for us here, and we just want to somehow help these families and these siblings and these parents."