SUMMER 2013 | St. Lawrence University Magazine 3
I had not cried since Dec. 14,
the day the bad man
that's what some children in Newtown call him -- shot his
way into Sandy Hook Elementary School, three miles from our
door, and snuffed out 26 lives.
Ninety-four days later, on a raw and gloomy Monday, I stood
on the porch of a yellow ranch house in the Sandy Hook sec-
tion of Newtown where a curly-haired 6-year-old used to live
with her family.
I had been asked not to knock, but to put the meal of home-
made pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, and salad in the red
cooler by the doorstep. The family would retrieve it and heat it
for dinner.
My wife, Kathleen Thiesen Gardner '92, wrote some words
on a pretty card to leave with the food. She struggled with the
appropriate sentiment, finally choosing simplicity. "We are
thinking of you. From the Gardner family."
I stacked the trays in the cooler, careful to avoid the puddle
from the melting bag of ice, and placed the white envelope
with the note on top. I worked quickly and quietly. I didn’t
want to disturb anyone inside.
Turning, I headed toward my car and saw a shallow pool near
some shrubs in the front yard. Schools of orange and yellow
fish shimmied through the water, their fins occasionally breach-
ing the surface.
I fixated on the blur of color. The fish were safe, insulated from
the unspeakable tragedy that destroyed 26 families and changed
a community, nation and world.
Sadness suddenly overwhelmed me. Like the fish, the girl had
enjoyed safe refuge in this quiet neighborhood. I took a deep
breath as my eyes became heavy. I wanted to compose my-
self, to be as strong (at least outwardly) as I'd been for three
months.
"
Food delivered," I texted Kath, my cheeks now stained with
tears. "Crying for the first time since Dec. 14. So heartbreak-
ing."
Newtown, my home since birth (except for four years at
St. Lawrence), reminds me of Canton. Both towns have movie
houses and coffee shops on their main drags, expanses of forest-
land and fields, annual parades that draw large crowds, friendly
people who listen when you speak.
We are blessed to be raising our two children here, but living
in ZIP code 06470 now carries baggage. Recently, I called the
cable company about my bill. The operator wanted my address.
"
Newtown, Connecticut," I replied. "Oh," she said. "I'm sorry
for what happened in your town."
Reminders of the tragedy linger even though the teddy bear
and flower memorials are gone. The CNN satellite truck was
parked in town one March afternoon. Our son remarked,
Why are they here again?” The reporters were inside Edmond
Town Hall, where we go for $2 movies. Katie Couric filmed
her "Voices from Newtown" special there in February, in a
room where the Rotary Club hosts pancake breakfasts.
People still wear green and white ribbons on their lapels.
Teachers drive with "Proud to be a Newtown Teacher" bumper
stickers. Storefronts display signs that proclaim, “We are Sandy
Hook. We Choose Love.” Green and white bows hang on util-
ity poles on Main Street. Most survived the unusually snowy
winter.
Survival is the challenge here.
Time may dull
the numbness we feel, but it won’t be the remedy. For me, a
sign of hope will always be that pool in the girl’s front yard,
where the orange and yellow fish swim safely in a beautiful
place on earth.
Class Reporter Chris Gardner ’93 is a bureau chief
and local news editor for the
Republican-Ameri-
can
,
the daily newspaper in Waterbury, Conn. He
and Kathleen are the proud parents of Andrew, 12,
and Caroline, 8, who may be seen on page 52.
FINAL THOUGHT
by Chris Gardner ’93
Newtown:
My Town,
Our Town